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A Study of William Shenstone 
and of His Critics 


Fifteen of His UnpubKshed Poems 


Five of His Unpublished 

Latin Inscriptions 









JUNE, 1913. 

George Banta Publishing Company 

Menasha, Wisconsin 

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The Manuscript 1 

LiPE OF William Shenstone 5 

Periods op Interest in Shenstone 7 

Critical Estimate 11 

1. Introduction 11 

2. Character 13 

v" 3. Landscape Gardening 29 

4. Poetry S3 

5. Essays 47 

6. Letters 50 

7. Literary Criticism 54 

8. Conclusion 63 

Poems and Inscriptions prom the Manuscript 64 

Table op Contents op the Manuscript 87 

Bibliography 89 


To Professor George Herbert Palmer of Harvard 
University, who made this work a pleasure by lend- 
ing his manuscript, who brought it into being by his 
wish, and who inspired it by his fine sense of justice 
to the lesser authors of our literature, I give sincere 
thanks. It is a pleasure also to express my apprecia- 
tion and gratitude to Professor Margaret Sherwood 
for happy hours of free discussion and inspiring 

The Manuscript 

The manuscript that has occasioned this thesis is an attractive 
little gilt-edged book of about fifty pages, written in the hand 
of the author, William Shenstone, as is evident from comparison 
with the facsimile letter inserted in the Works. It is enriched 
with many half-page or full-page water-color paintings, which 
are almost certainly by the same hand, as we know from the 
Letters that Shenstone amused himself with such work (Works, 
III, pp. 150, 155). There are pictures of groves, winding streams 
and walks, cascades, lakes, summer-houses, the vistas of the 
blue hills and of the church spire that he liked so well to look 
upon, and one that probably shows the "ruinated priory." Be- 
sides, there are flowers, emblematic pieces such as he often men- 
tions in his letters, the pheasant, the king-fisher or halcyon, which 
he chose and designed for his coat of arms (Percy-Shenstone, p. 
19)t, a picture of the urn to Thomson, and one of that to Eutrecia 
Smith. All are done with the same careful, almost affectionate, 
attention to finish of detail as is his literary work and even his 

The manuscript contains forty-seven poems and several Latin 
inscriptions. Of the poems, fifteen have not been published; 
others, somewhat changed, are in the Works. None of his Levities 
or his Moral Pieces are among them, nor is the fourth part of the 
Pastoral Ballad. We find the other three parts, however, as well 
as the Ode to Memory, The Dying Kid, and Princess Elizabeth. 
The changes in the poems that have been published are chiefly 
differences in phrasing. Often, perhaps usually, these are im- 
provements; for example, in the stanza: 

The linnets all flock to my groves; 
The limes their rich fragrance bestow; 

And the nightingales warble their loves 
From thickets of roses that blow. 

t Thomas Percy and William Shenstone: Ein Briefwechsel etc. See 


It was changed thus: 

From the plains, from the woodlands and groves 

What strains of wild melody flow! 
How the nightingales warble their loves 
From thickets of roses that blow! 

{Works, I, p. 192) 

Sometimes, on the other hand, the change, whether made by 

author or by publisher, was unfortunate. The most marked 

case is that of the one line faulty in metre in Hope of the Pastoral 

Ballad as pubhshed: 

But a sweet-briar entwines it around. 

In the manuscript it is faultless: 

But a jessamine twines it around. 

The fastidious Shenstone would never have rested content with 

the former, which must have been the choice of his publisher, 

Dodsley, of less exacting ear for numbers {Works, III, p. 340). 

There are some changes, also, in titles and in number of stan- 
zas. The poem printed as Jemmy Dawson is in the manuscript 
called James Dawson's Garland; The Dying Kid is The Kid; the 
Pastoral Ballad is The Shepherd's Garland. The inscription to 
Thomson is unlike that published with the others in Dodsley 's 
Description of the Leasowes {Works, II), but is like one form sug- 
gested by Shenstone in a letter to his friend Graves {Works, III, 
p. 134). The widely admired lines {Burford Papers, English 
Romanticism of the Eighteenth Century) inscribed in his grounds 
to his favorite cousin, Maria Dolman (Works, II, p. 356), are here 
inscribed to Eutrecia Smith. The few poems that have more 
stanzas in the manuscript I give in full in another section. There 
are several that have fewer stanzas; for example, the Ode to Mem- 
ory; the poem to Lady Luxborough, Winter, 1747; and Fairy Spell, 
which in the manuscript is signed "Oberon." The Verses about 
Thomson written towards the close of the year 1748 have ten 
additional stanzas. 

The Scholar's Relapse has this note at the foot of the page: 
"Set by Howard and printed vilely in his British Orpheus. " The 
Rose-bud has this: "Set by Galliard. " Thus we have another 
ray of light on the musical setting of the songs. Arne's melody 
for the Pastoral Ballad is printed in Dodsley's Collection of Poems 
by Several Hands. 


The unpublished poems make no new revelation of the nature 
or the art of Shenstone, nor do they equal the few best of his 
already known; but they are of great interest in confirming our 
opinion of him as man and as poet. 

Professor George Herbert Palmer of Harvard University is 
the present owner of the manuscript. He bought it, with broken 
binding, from Bernard Quaritch and had it rebound. Quaritch 
had bought it at a London auction. The date and original owner 
are made plain by the inscription, in the author's hand, inside the 

front cover: 

Given to Mary Cutler, Jan. 1, 1754 

by Will : Shenstone. 
In Amore haec insunt omnia. Teren: 
Of this Mary Cutler we learn more from DTsraeh, who states 
on the authority of "the late Mr. Bindley's collection" of anec- 
dotes that there is, on the back of a picture of Shenstone himself, 
of which Dodsley published a print in 1780, the following inscrip- 
tion written by the poet: 

This picture belongs to Mary Cutler, given her by her master, William 
Shenstone, January 1st, 1754, in acknowledgement of her native genius, her 
magnanimity, her tenderness, and her fidelity. 

W. S. 

Thus the same New Year's Day brought her both picture and 
manuscript. One naturally conjectures that Mary Cutler was 
his housekeeper, successor of good Mrs. Arnold, and the one who 
made agreeable the occasional half-hours when he sat in his kitchen, 
impelled to it in his isolation "by the social passion," as he writes 
to a friend in the early part of his life at the Leasowes (Burford 
Papers, p. 188). Perhaps, too, she was the servant to whom he 
left an annuity of thirty pounds. Of the other owners of the little 
volume we have no positive knowledge, but I have found one or 
two traces. In the Gentleman's Magazine of February, 1797, is a 
note from "D. S. P." giving a Latin inscription to "M. A.," which 
he says he copied from "a small manuscript book of poems, etc., 
written by the late Mr. Shenstone of the Leasowes, most of which 
have never been published." He thinks the lines are certainly 
intended for the old housekeeper, Mrs. Arnold. This inscription 
is identical, with the exception of dilaceratas for dilaceras, with that 
in our manuscript for "M. A.," and is not in the Works. Thus 


it seems clear proof of the whereabouts of the manuscript in 1797. 
Quite possibly, also, the volume was in 1862 in the possession of 
E. Jesse, who writes under that date, "A kind friend has recently 
presented to me a box full of unpublished letters and manuscripts 
and some poems of the poet [Shenstone] which have never seen 
the light, together with some views of the Leasowes and sketches 
of the various objects which he placed in it, all drawn by the 
author's hand " {Once a Week, VI). Through what other hands 
the httle book has passed we cannot even conjecture, but it has 
been well kept. Its fair pages are intact and are fresh, save for a 
little yellowing due to age and to the paints used, and are a source 
of pleasure even to one not versed in the lore of manuscripts. 

Life of William Shenstone 

William Shenstone is closely associated with the neat town of 
Hales-Owen in an outlying part of Shropshire, about seven miles 
from Birmingham. There he was born (November 13, 1714); 
there he lived quietly, with only his servants, most of his forty- 
eight years, writing poetry, essays, letters, and inscriptions, making 
his native fields a place of beauty for himself and his many guests; 
there he died quietly (February 11, 1763); and there he is buried 
near the church with its beautiful spire. 

His parents, Thomas Shenstone and Anne Penn, died in his 
boyhood, and he was left under the kind guardianship of an uncle, 
Mr. Dolman, rector of Broome. As a child he was hardly contented 
to go to bed without a book under his pillow as a companion. 
His educational advantages included the dame-school, the Hales- 
Owen grammar school, the school for sons of gentlemen and nobles 
kept by Mr. Crumpton of Solihull, and Pembroke College, Oxford. 
Of Sarah Lloyd, the "old school-dame" from whom he learned 
to read, he cherished most pleasant recollections, and he sketched 
her portrait affectionately in The Schoolmistress. At Oxford he 
spent two happy years, interested and successful in his studies; 
associating now with the club of jolly young fellows who drank 
ale, smoked, and sang gay songs the whole evening, now with the 
set of gentlemen commoners, superior on account of their better 
liquor (port wine), and now with the flying squadron of plain, 
sensible, most rational men confined to no club (Graves: Recol- 
lections, pp. 14-18). He formed a triumvirate of intimate friend- 
ship with Graves and Whistler, which was broken only by death. 
All the time he cherished the idea of taking his degrees and going 
on to the study of physic. No doubt he surprised himself as well 
as his friends, when, on going to take possession of the Leasowes 
and part of the Harborough estate at his majority, he over-stayed 
the vacation, constantly deferred his return, and, charmed with 


the peaceful leisure and beauty of the place, never went back to 
his university studies. "In this decision," writes Graves, "the 
happiness of Mr. Shenstone was materially concerned. Whether 
he determined wisely or not, people of taste and people of worldly 
prudence will probably be of very different opinions" (Recollec- 
tions, p. 35). 

For a few years he made and enjoyed occasional visits to Lon- 
don, to the literary circle at Bath, and elsewhere; but after that 
he chose to stay on his own little estate, the Leasowes, making 
visits a few miles distant now and then and one long journey of 
seventy miles to see his friend Whistler. Ten years before his 
own death he lost his only near relative, his brother Joseph of 
Bridgenorth, to whom he was deeply attached. Thus he was 
left peculiarly alone, as he never married. His last visit was to 
Lord Stamford at Enville. Soon after his return on a cold Sunday 
morning, he developed a fever, which proved fatal. Bishop Percy 
wrote in a letter at that time: "I know not any private gentleman 
whose loss had occasioned a more sincere or more universal con- 
cern. The delicate sensibility of his writings, the consummate 
elegance of his taste, the beauties of his conversation, and the 
virtues of his heart had procured him a most extensive acquain- 
ance, and every one of these aspired to his friendship" (Percy- 
S hens tone, p. 92). 


Periods or Interest in Shenstone 

As my bibliography indicates, interest in Shenstone falls 
into three well-marked periods: the half-century following his 
death, the middle of the nineteenth century, and the early part 
of the twentieth. In the first and longest of these periods is felt 
a certain personal quality in the memory and affection of his 
intimate friends — Graves, Jago, Dodsley, and Bishop Percy. 
The year after his death, Dodsley, with well-meaning friendship, 
but with too little heed to his fastidious friend's wishes, published 
Shenstone's Works in Prose and Verse in two volumes, with "deco- 
rations," a Kfe, a description of the Leasowes, and a good-sized 
diagram of the famous ''ferme ornee. " To these was added as a 
third volume five years later, the Letters to Particular Friends. 
Other editions and American reprints followed, whether of the 
entire works, the poems alone, or the essays. The latter were 
bound with The Idler and other papers in a volume whose rural 
frontispiece, full-page engravings, and artistic monograms would 
have delighted the taste of our essayist. They were printed, too, 
in the good company of Goldsmith's essays. Doctor Johnson 
both honored and dishonored Shenstone in writing his Life. 
Robert Anderson tried to rectify the unjust sneers of Johnson. 
Richard Graves, Shenstone's lifelong friend, who outlived him by 
twenty-five years, wrote his little volume of Recollections, which 
have ever since been an authority, but the book is now very dif- 
ficult to find. Mason and Jago took delight in paying tribute 
to him in their blank verse (Mason: The English Garden; Jago: 
Edgehill); and many wrote encomiums. Lady Luxborough's 
cordial letters to Shenstone were published. Alexander Carlyle, 
in his diverting autobiography, wrote with zest an account of his 
visit to the Leasowes and their owner. An anonymous poet 
printed a volume with Shenstone as the almost adored hero of its 
narrative. In the Gentleman's Magazine appeared occasional 


notes about him, as well as plates of the Hales-Owen church, 
showing where he is buried, of the "ruinated castle" at Hagley 
Park, of which there was a vista at the Leasowes, and of the house 
in which he was born and in which he spent most of his adult life — 
the house at which Doctor Johnson and his followers sneer. In 
the same magazine were printed, too, copies of Lyttleton's inscrip- 
tion to Shenstone "on a neat urn encompassed with stately oaks," 
and of Graves' inscription to his friend on the urn within the 
Hales-Owen church. 

I must not neglect mention of the memorial stone to Shenstone 
in the gardens of the Marquis de Girardin at Ermenonville, which 
the owner called "the Leasowes of France" {Recollections, p. 189). 
At the base of a pyramid in memory of Theocritus, Vergil, and 
Thomson {Recollections, p. 189; Curiosities of Literature, III, p. 
97) is a slab with this remarkable inscription: 

This plain stone 
To William Shenstone. 
In his verses he displayed 
His mind natural; 
At Leasowes he layed 
Arcadian greens rural. 
(Quoted by T. R. H. Sturges in Notes and Queries, sixth series, 
rV, p. 465, from Reflective Tour through France in 1778.) This 
effusion, which might have made Shenstone smile with pleasure 
at its genuine admiration of what was dearest to him, smile with 
approval at the effort for simplicity and conciseness in an unmas- 
tered tongue, and smile in amusement at the ear-torturing rhyme, 
was followed by his stanzas to "Venus fresh rising from the foamy 

In the second period of interest — the middle of the nineteenth 
century — the poems and essays were republished. Critical esti- 
mates were made with more detachment, but sometimes took a 
whimsical turn. DTsraeh gives, in his Curiosities of Literature, 
two interesting chapters to Shenstone, and Mr. Tuckerman of 
Philadelphia has, in his Characteristics of Literature, a chapter 
devoted to Shenstone as the dilettante, in which he holds him up, 
with some appreciation, it is true, but chiefly to use him as a 
warning against the folly of being anything less than a great 
genius. Two or three chapters of Hugh Miller's First Impressions 


of England and Its People are given to appreciation and description 
of the Leasowes, William Shenstone, and his works. There is a 
pleasant and kindly protest made by E. Jesse {Once a Week, VI, 
p. 722) against Johnson's harsh criticism. The author of an 
unsigned article in Temple Bar (X, 397) speaks with discrimination 
and with a tone of authority, giving a careful review of Shenstone 
and his work, and assigning to him a decided place as poetic artist 
and as an essayist of originality and admirable suggestion. In 
Notes and Queries (third series, XII, p. 289) appeared a Hst of all 
the successive owners of the Leasowes, with some details of pur- 
chase. There too was a short series of letters in regard to Shen- 
stone's verses inscribed on the window of the Red Lion Inn, and a 
statement that at Harborough Hall are still to be seen in their 
original position several lines that he wrote in French on a pane 
of glass (third series, XII, p. 219). 

The close of the nineteenth century brings in the third period 
of interest, which is now more judicious and at the same time 
more appreciative. Mr. George Saintsbury, in his introduction 
to the selections from Shenstone in Ward's English Poets, com- 
mends him frankly for certain unquestionable merits, calling him 
a "master of the artificial-natural style in poetry" and "a poet 
somehow," though not a great poet. Ten years later Mr. William 
H. Hutton writes a genial chapter on the owner of the Leasowes, 
"one who has, indeed, some claim to be regarded as one of the 
earliest masters of landscape-gardening," one who "has some of 
the marks of the true poet, and certainly not a few of the kindly 
and amiable man." Mr. Beers gives several pages in his English 
Romanticism in the Eighteenth Century to a discussion of his poetry 
and his gardening. The Schoolmistress was held worthy by Dr. 
Brandl to be the subject of a doctoral thesis in 1908. Most recent 
is the publication of Shenstone's correspondence with Bishop 
Percy, edited by Dr. Hans Hecht of Basel, who sets high value on 
his critical judgment and work in connection with the Rcliques. 
In Professor William Hulme's most readable review of this valuable 
book {Modern Language Notes, XXVH, January, 1912) he takes 
the opportunity for a refreshing, vigorous, and friendly protest 
against the long-lived criticisms by Dr. Johnson, Walpole, and 
Gray, and praises the man, the critic, the letter-writer in no uncer- 


tain tone. It is much to be regretted that there is no edition or 
estimate of Shenstone's essays to be added to this Ust. They are, 
it seems to me, a most characteristic and really valuable part of 
his work. It is disappointing to seek to own a copy, only to find 
that they are out of print. Something yet remains to be done for 


Critical Estimate 

To be misunderstood and misjudged, and in consequence 
slighted or scorned, is perhaps a common fate of human beings 
and especially of minor authors. To render even belated justice 
in such a case is a pleasant and honorable task. Having ample 
material for the purpose renders the undertaking doubly pleasant 
and kindles the hope that it may be effective. The fact that the 
chief judge in error has been regarded by most of his contemporaries, 
by many of his successors, and emphatically by himself, as the 
well-nigh infallible oracle of his age, gives added zest to the work. 

William Shenstone has suffered for more than a century from 
the undue harshness of literary judges. It is to him that I seek 
to render justice. A great man he was not, nor does he represent 
a great age; but he is to an unusual degree a representative of 
the age in which he lived, for he not only reflected all the tenden- 
cies of its varied literary life, but also shared in its transitional 
nature. His was an age of gifted letter-writers, and his letters 
are worthy of a place therein. The essay was still in favor, and 
he wrote essays that should not be forgotten. It had been an age 
of pastorals, and he wrote pastorals; it was an age of elegies, and 
he wrote elegies; it was an age of fashionable melancholy, and he 
had by nature a strain of melancholy, which he did not fail to 
express; it was an age of satire, and he satirized dry learning and 
pastoral poetry {Rape of the Trap, Colemira). Imitations of 
Spenser were popular among the poets of his day, and Shenstone 
wrote one of the earliest and the best. He would not endure pov- 
erty-stricken hmitation to any one metrical form, even the heroic 
couplet, but, in the newer fashion, tried many. Blank verse, 
the ballad stanza, quatrains of anapestic trimeter, rhyming 
couplets of four iambic feet, the irregular ode, the trochaic line, 
the elegiac stanza, and many more, he used not unskilfully. Didac- 


tic poetry was all-powerful and all-popular, and Shenstone was 
didactic enough for his age in several of his longer poems, although 
he exclaimed to a friend, "Alas! I do not like formal didactic 
poetry" {Works, III, p. 78). Ballads were beginning to find 
welcome in literary circles; Shenstone felt the impulse and wrote 
the ballad of Jemmy Dawson. A school of landscape poets was 
rising; he wrote landscape in his verse; and, with rocks, water, 
and trees, upon his own hillsides, making them perhaps the best 
poem he ever wrote. The little common things and events of 
lowly life were just beginning, in Ramsay's Gentle Shepherd, to 
appear in poetry; to this beginning Shenstone gave a strong im- 
petus in his Schoolmistress, leading the way for Goldsmith and 
Burns. Writers about him were imitating Milton; this Shenstone 
did not do with his pen, but the Leasowes with its "arched walks 
of twilight groves," its "waters murmuring," its "close covert by 
some brook," its "mossy cell," its "bees with honeyed thigh," 
shows unmistakably the influence of II Penseroso. 

Marked changes in literature, as in geology, seldom come sud- 
denly. They come almost unnoticed, and Shenstone is one of 
the foremost to mark the transition from pseudo-classicism to 
romanticism, from an adherence to forms that stifled life to an 
exulting life that surged beyond all forms, from love of nature in 
the guise of the ancients to love of nature in her own dewy fresh- 
ness, from professed to practiced simplicity, from being natural 
according to rule to being natural after one's own heart. He felt 
and followed not only the influence of French artificiality so long 
dominant in England, thanks chiefly to Pope, who drew his rules 
from Boileau; but he felt and followed also the first stirring of 
the fresher, newer life, which developed slowly indeed, and was to 
come to full bloom hardly less than a half-century from the time 
of his death. As a good Augustan, he prized "correctness" highly 
and was "more correct than Pope himself, particularly in his 
rhymes" {Temple Bar, X, p. 397); he felt the trammels of drawing- 
room propriety and never expressed deep emotion in his poetry; 
and he praised nature in the good set terms of the artificial pas- 
toral. As a budding romanticist, however, he criticised Boileau 
and French influence rather sharply {Works, II, p. 175); he objected 
to Pope's heroic metre with the resulting scantiness and con- 


straint (Works, I, pp. 8-9), and used it in but one or two of his 
own poems. His desire for naturalness is shown in as diverse 
matters as hair-dressing, gardening, and Uterature. He even 
persisted, despite all taunts at Oxford, in "wearing his own hair" — 
and it was not handsome — in those years when every school-boy, 
as soon as he entered the university, cut off his locks, whatever 
they were, and put on a wig (Recollections, p. 25). Hedges and 
clipped trees were too artificial for his grounds, where, close to 
nature, he lived his poetry (Works, II, pp. 137, 140). On natural- 
ness in all forms of literature he insisted over and over again, and 
he showed his appreciation of the natural poetry of the people 
by encouraging and urging Percy to publish his manuscript of 
old ballads, albeit with some "correcting." 

To estimate Shenstone fairly, we must give him his due, not 
merely in one or two phases of his work, but in each of the fields 
where he made his mark — as man, as landscape-gardener, as poet, 
as essayist, as letter-writer, as literary critic. He has been blamed 
in all; he has been praised in all; but the critical discussions have 
been fragmentary or incomplete. One writer has considered 
only his poetry and his character; another has added a considera- 
tion of his landscape work; one has praised his essays only, and 
held his letters unworthy of notice; another has given all his 
attention to his work as literary critic as shown in one volume of 
his correspondence; one has thought only of the poetry; and still 
another has discussed one poem only. To give a well-rounded 
appreciation of this versatile man, so likable and so true in every- 
thing that he did, is the aim of the present writer. 


Shenstone's amiabiUty was praised by all who knew him 
directly or indirectly. Dodsley, Graves, Bishop Percy, and all 
his other intimate friends could not say too much of it. Every 
one liked him and enjoyed the genuine courtesy of his manner; 
every one who knew him wished to know him better. It is only 
a whimsical moralist who pauses to lament that amiability is a 
negative rather than a positive virtue (Tuckerman : chapter 
on the Dilettante). The deeply affectionate nature of the man 
is felt in almost every letter of his. He clings to Graves, Jago, 

14 ^^^LLIAM shenstone and his critics 

Whistler, Percy, with many an expression of heartfelt friendship. 
His friends were so much to him, present or long absent, that he 
could not bear the thought of the sUghtest estrangement or mis- 
understanding. He was "the warmest and most affectionate 
friend," says Graves. The depth and strength of his love for 
his brother Joseph, who is so often and so kindly remembered 
in the letters of Lady Luxborough, is revealed in his letter telling 
his loss to Graves — a loss which had a lasting effect upon him. 

He cared much, not only for the few intimates, but for the 
frequent company of other people with congenial tastes, not, as 
he wrote, "persons of vulgar minds, who will despise you for the 
want of a good set of chairs, or an uncouth fire shovel, at the same 
time that they can't taste any excellence in a mind that over- 
looks these things. . . . Indeed, one loses much of one's acquisi- 
tions in virtue in an hour's converse with such a judge of merit 
by money, etc." (Burford Papers, p. 188). His neighbors, Lord 
Lyttleton and his family. Lord Dudley, Mr. Hylton, and Admiral 
Smith, and, living at a distance, Joseph Spence and James Thom- 
son, were valued friends; the correspondence with Lady Lux- 
borough, lasting through almost twenty years, was a constant 
source of pleasure; and after the earlier years at the Leasowes, 
the place and its owner attracted as many literary guests, gentry, 
and nobles, from at home and abroad, as he could desire. He 
passed the last years of his life "in great credit and reputation" 
(Recollections, p. 164). His letters and essays show an easy, 
thorough understanding of human nature, a widely tolerant spirit, 
and an ability to read and appreciate not only people of his own 
type, but also those entirely different. The touching inscription 
to his Httle dog, FUrtilla (Manuscript), shows us the tenderness 
of her master's heart. The satisfying tribute to the memory of 
M. A. (Manuscript) — without doubt the faithful housekeeper, 
Mrs. Arnold, who took such good care of her master and was so 
motherly to his hens (Works, HI, p. 5) — shows his appreciation of 
faithful service. 

Shy and retiring by nature, he felt an awkward restraint on 
first meeting strangers, and was often silent; but as soon as this 
passed, his face lost its heavy look, and his conversation was 
sprightly, dehghting his companions. He was most concise in 


his relating of facts, and a skiKul teller of stories. We see him, 
robust rather than elegant of form, dressed in his favorite blue 
coat and gold-laced scarlet waistcoat {Recollections, p. 179), or 
perhaps in his white suit with silver lace (A. Carlyle: Autobiog- 
raphy), telUng an amusing anecdote to those about him. He 
omitted not a circumstance that could heighten the effect and 
added not a word that could lessen it. His expression was rigidly 
grave till he reached the point, but then his whole face brightened 
with such mirth that, like a flash, it seized the whole company 
{Recollections, p. 173). Dearly did he love to tease his friends, 
but he stopped at once if it began to hurt their feelings, for he 
could not bear to give pain, even to animals {Works, II, p. 279). 
His love of fun is seen at its height in the joke which, with the help 
of Percy and one or two others, he played for months upon his 
neighbor Hylton, who had, Shenstone thought, an undue venera- 
tion for antique curiosities (Percy-5/zew^/o«^, pp. 19, 23,25,28,34, 
37). Through a correspondence supposedly with a certain honor- 
able Birmingham dealer in such wares, Mr. Hylton was led to 
make arrangements for the carving of a valuable cup from the 
wood of a mulberry-tree planted by Shakespeare. On it was 
carved Shakespeare himself wearing a gardener's apron and in 
the act of planting the tree ; on another side was the dealer making 
oath before the Mayor of Stratford that the wood was genuine. 
Shenstone wrote with glee that he had procured for Hylton "a 
real King William's bib" and the spoon with which "old Parr 
ate buttermilk. " Percy contributed a remarkable modern-ancient 
coin, a shell with a hole in it, a small Nemean lion of red clay, 
and other objects, all with suitably striking descriptions or his- 
tories attached. Percy feared that some lasting grudge or dislike 
of him might result, but Shenstone vowed "by the porringer of 
old Parr" that no such result should follow. In reality it did not, 
though when at last the secret came out, Hylton was not quite 
so much amused as his friend had expected at the excellence of 
the joke. 

To Shenstone's benevolence, never touched on by himself even 
in his most intimate letters, we have ample witness. Dodsley 
writes, "His friends, his domestics, his poor neighbors, all daily 
experienced his benevolent turn of mind. Indeed, this virtue 


in him was often carried to such excess that it sometimes bordered 
upon weakness" (Works,l,'Pveisice, p. ii). Alexander Carlyle, on 
his one visit to the Leasowes, saw the owner turn aside from his 
distinguished guest to talk for some time with an emaciated young 
woman in the last stages of consumption. On his return he ex- 
plained that she was a sickly neighbor, to whom he had given a 
key to his grounds, as she delighted in them. Graves, in his 
Recollections, says that Shenstone was "never so happy as when 
he could do any little service to his relations, his friends, or his 
neighbors, by his advice, his influence, or even his purse, as far 
as his slender income would permit" (Recollections, p. 157). "His 
will was dictated with equal justice and generosity," and his 
estate left ample means to pay all his debts, his legacies to his 
friends, and an annuity of thirty pounds to one servant and of 
six pounds to another {Recollections, pp. 71, 73). 

A more pretentious and particularly interesting tribute to this 
same trait is a poem called Shenstone: or The Force of Benevolence, 
printed anonymously in 1776, and filling a rather thin quarto 
volume of pleasing press work, with three plates. The author sold 
it at the Red Lion Inn at the price of two shilUngs. Its rhyming 
couplets in the style of Pope are evidently a labor of love, and 
are dedicated thus: "To those who, amidst affluence, descend to 
visit the low abodes of the afflicted, and find more feUcity in allevi- 
ating the wants of their fellow-creatures than in the gaudy pagean- 
try of courts, midnight revelry, and fashionable dissipation." 
The writer was acquainted with Shenstone. He writes, "The 
man I celebrate was not a lord, but he was virtuous; his worldly 
possessions were not mighty, but he had humanity. Unknown to 
courts, he lived a life recluse in dafliance with his favorite muse. 
Benevolence was his bosom's chief est tenant." The story, which 
we are assured is no fiction, shows "the Leasowes' lord" wandering 
with his Delia along "the glassy rills" and the "embroidered 
margin of the limpid lake," hoping for her approval of the seat 
made in honor of Thomson, and wishing that she herself might 
be content to dwell "where bashful cowslips rise to kiss her feet." 
Suddenly an armed rustic attacked him with oaths: 

To Shenstone's head the tube of death was reared. 
The robber trembled (not the good man feared) . 


Shenstone spoke "with the kindest heart beneath the sky," and 
learned it was desperate need that had led to this desperate action. 
He handed out his purse as a gift, said he wished the man no ill, 
and advised him to hasten away. As he ran far on his way, a 
trusty servant saw him throw his weapon into the lake and fol- 
lowed him to a miserable hovel in Hales-Owen. There were the 
starving wife and children. The father poured the gold upon 
the floor, and confessed with remorse that he had robbed "the 
kindest of the human race. " CoUn told his master all that he 
had seen and heard through a crack in the wall. Shenstone, like 
a modern philanthropist, made inquiries, and finding that the 
poor man was really worthy, but hard-pressed, hurried to the 
hovel, forgave all, and told him to bring his family the next day 
to live at the Leasowes with " the cherub Peace. " There, said he, 

Help me my buildings and my grots to rear; 

Direct my alleys, turn the mellow soil; 

For you, I know, are used to sylvan toil. 

Shenstone would keep the secret of the attempted crime. 
Soon to the Leasowes sped the gladsome swain, 
And soon Hygeia decked his infant train. 

He worked faithfully for his master till the latter's death, and lived 


Till the Great Author of Benevolence 

Called him, resigned, from this his low abode, 
To join at once his Shenstone and his God. 

I am strongly of the opinion, though with no real proof, that 
the admiring author of this poem is the young journeyman shoe- 
maker, Woodhouse, of whose verses and literary tastes Shen- 
stone wrote to Sherrington Davenport (Works, III, p. 394). He 
gave this man advice and help in his literary pursuits, as he did to 
Miss Wheatley, to Vernon, and to all others with such tastes whom 
he could assist (Anderson: Poets, IX, p. 588). Graves tells us, 
moreover, that "his encouragement of the ingenious Woodhouse 
recommended him to a patroness [Lady Luxborough, very likely] 
who placed him in a situation where he had leisure to gratify his 
taste for literary pursuits" (Recollections, p. 158). What more 
natural than that he should satisfy both his taste and his gratitude 
by praising in verse his helpful patron, of whose kindness in the 


neighborhood he must have heard much? Very likely the basis 
of plot in the poem was the fact, barely stated by Graves, that 
Shenstone was censured for not insisting on the transportation of 
a man wdth five children who had robbed the fish ponds at the 
Leasowes {Recollections, p. 182). 

All admit that Shenstone had no vices, but Mr. Gilfillan and 
others make the charge that he was indolent. Far be it from me 
to attempt any full denial of the charge. Shenstone recognized 
this quality in himself, and sometimes lamented that he did not, 
as his critics say he should have done, take active steps to enlarge 
his fortune. Yet the literary world has other examples of lack 
of industry. Coleridge, Cowper, even Wordsworth, were not 
active, practical men. But Shenstone's output of poetry was not 
so strangely small as Gray's, and his life was but little longer; 
his letters are not few; his essays fill a volume of a few hundred 
pages, entertaining and suggestive, wherever you open it. More- 
over, the planning and carrying out, with scanty means, of the 
transformation of a farm into a paradise is hardly the mere amuse- 
ment of an idle hour any more than was the transformation, with 
abundant dollars and workmen, of Back Bay mud-holes into a 
beautiful drive and park. Indeed, it was far less so, for the first 
principles of landscape-gardening must then be developed in the 
same hour. The owner of the estate must often have been work- 
man as well as supervisor. "I make people wonder," he writes, 
"at my exploits in pulling down walls, hovels, cow-houses" {Bur- 
ford Papers, p. 188). And again, "One piece of water below my 
priory has confined me, employed my servants, and enslaved my 
horses all this year" {Percy-Shenstone, p. 41). Perhaps he would 
have been stronger of body and more constantly in good spirits 
if he had been more active, yet he gained much by the reposeful 
quiet of his country life. He avoided in large measure the "be- 
coming unconsciously something like thorns" in anxiety to bear 
grapes, and the "impoverishment in spirit and temper" of which 
Pater speaks as possible "in the pursuit of even great ends"; and 
he had a Httle share, it may be, in "the intangible perfection of 
those whose ideal is rather in being than in doing . . . whose 
manners are in the deepest, as in the simplest, sense, morals" 
(Pater: Appreciations, pp. 60, 61). Lady Luxborough may not 


have been far wrong when she responded to his self-condemnation, 
"You are not the idle man of creation. . . . Your pen, your 
pencil, your taste, and your sincere, cheerful conduct in life (which 
are the things that make you appear idle) give such an example 
as it were to be wished might be more generally followed — few 
have the capacity, fewer have the honesty to spend their time so 
usefully as well as unblamably " (Lady Luxborough: Letters, p. 106). 

As householder, Shenstone has been judged almost exclusively 
by Dr. Johnson's emphatic words: 

"His house was mean, and he did not improve it; his care was 
for his grounds. When he came home from his walks, he might 
find his floors flooded by a shower through the broken roof; but 
he could spare no money for its reparation. In time his expenses 
brought clamors about him that overpowered the lamb's bleat 
and the linnet's song; and his groves were haunted by beings very 
different from fauns and fairies. He spent his estate in adorning 
it, and his death was probably hastened by his anxieties" (Johnson: 
Works, III, p. 352). This harshness is hardly lessened by the 
addition that a pension "could not have been ever more properly 
bestowed" than on this man. 

The whole matter would be scarcely worth attention, if the 
dictator's word had not been so loudly and positively spoken, so 
universally believed, so emphatically echoed, and so often used 
through following generations as a reproach against unoffending 
Shenstone and as a starting-point for further censure. One is 
tempted to ask why, if the owner found pleasure in embellishing his 
grounds at the sacrifice of his house, he had not a perfect right to do 
as he pleased. He had no family dependent on him, and none but 
distant and uncongenial relatives — manufacturers of buttons — 
to whom to leave his property. But Johnson is without doubt 
far from the facts. Shenstone's letters tell several times of paper- 
ing and of other changes in the house, of paintings and busts for 
it, of careful and comfortable arrangements of furniture {Works, 
III, pp. 158, 159, 224, 233, 235, 327). The picture of the house 
in the Gentleman's Magazine for December, 1811 (vol. 87, part 2, 
p. 505), made from a drawing done by Shenstone in 1744, before 
any of his changes had been made, shows a comfortable house with 
two gables, a cupola, and three chimneys. "This house," says 


Parkes, "by considerable additions and alterations, aided by the 
ingenuity and taste of Shenstone, was rendered a very respectable 
dwelling and remained till 1775." Some particulars of this 
exercise of taste and ingenuity we learn from the two friends of 
Shenstone, Richard Graves and Bishop Percy. They with their 
wives had visited the Leasowes more than once for at least a few 
days at a time, but Johnson had never done so. In regard to the 
possibility, Percy \\Tites to Shenstone, "He even talks of taking a 
journey down to the Leasowes, but this you must not much depend 
on; he is no more formed for long journeys than a tortoise" {Percy- 
Shenstone, p. 55). 

Mr. Graves, good parish priest, asserts that the house was by 
no means so much neglected "as Doctor Johnson's intelligence 
seems to imply," and expresses the conviction that the facetious 
intimation of his groves being haunted by duns is a groundless 
surmise. "Mr. Shenstone was too much respected in the neigh- 
borhood to be treated with rudeness. , . . He gave his hall some 
air of magnificence by sinking the floor, and giving it an altitude 
of ten feet instead of seven. By his own good taste and his mechan- 
ical skill he acquired two tolerably elegant rooms from a mere 
farm-house" {Recollections, pp. 71-73). To Anderson Bishop 
Percy wrote: 

"Johnson had committed great mistakes with respect to Shen- 
stone. . . . He grossly misrepresented both his circumstances 
and his house, which was small but elegant, and displayed a great 
deal of taste in the alterations and accommodation of the apart- 
ments, etc. On his sideboard he had a neat marble cistern, which, 
by turning a cock, was fed with living water; and he had many 
other little elegant contrivances, which displayed his genius and 
made me regret that this Httle elegant Temple of the Muses was 
pulled down for the larger building of Mr. Home. . . In the 
value of purchase how much Mr. Shenstone's estate was improved 
by his taste will be judged from the price it fetched when sold at 
auction in 1795, being seventeen thousand pounds sterling, though 
when it descended to him, it was only valued at three hundred 
pounds a year " {Nichols: Illustrations of Literature, VII, pp. 15 1-152) . 

Moreover, Shenstone was in the habit of entertaining guests 
of distinction not infrequently. One day he casually mentions 


three guests with five servants (Works, III, p. 226, 227); again, 
five guests at tea (pp. 184-185); yet again, ten dinner guests with 
six footmen (p. 171). Did he invite these guests, many of them 
nobles, to sit at his table under a leaky roof through which the 
ready EngUsh rain might come at any moment and drench table, 
floor, and feet? Lady Luxborough used to visit the Leasowes 
often, planned to do so annually. She brought friends and ser- 
vants with her and stayed over night (Lady Luxborough: Letters, 
pp. 5, 260, 308, 393, 414). There she met Lord Dudley, his sister, 
and others whom she called "extremely agreeable" (Lady Lux- 
borough: Letters, p. 51). There at another time she and Lord 
Dudley feasted on one of Shenstone's own fowls, which, she de- 
clares, "must have been a phoenix. How could we have been both 
so elegantly feasted by any common bird?" (p. 69) This courte- 
ous and friendly lady was hardly lodged in a mean, shabby, neg- 
lected house, only half protected from cold and storm. We must 
understand Shenstone's expressions concerning the humbleness 
of his abode as we do those of this gentle lady when she calls her 
mansion at Barrells her "cell," and her estate, which she had 
"fitted up in elegant style," her fer me negligee (Recollections, p. 
114; Lady Luxborough: Letters, p. 37). 

The estate was not exhausted by its adornments, as is plain 
from the statements of Mr. Graves: 

"Though his works (frugally as they were managed) added to 
his manner of living, must necessarily have made him exceed his 
income, and of course he might sometimes be distressed for money, 
yet he had too much spirit to expose himself to insults for trifling 
sums, and guarded against any greater distress by anticipating a 
few hundreds, which his estate could very well bear, as appeared 
by what remained to his executors after the pajonent of his debts 
and his legacies" (Recollections, pp. 71-72). 

There is, then, not the slightest foundation in fact for these 
sneers of Johnson. The truth of the matter seems to be that his 
injustice is due half to his ignorance of facts, his domineering spirit, 
and a certain ingrained jealousy, and half to the dulness of his 
weighty mind in perceiving humor. Plainly he took in all serious- 
ness the verses on The Poet and the Dun; the lines found in The 
Progress of Taste: 


When all the structure shone complete, 
Not much convenient, wondrous neat, 

Ah me! ('twas Damon's own confession) 
Came Poverty and took possession; 

and the description, which Shenstone himself calls a humorous 
addition to his poem, Economy, a rhapsody addressed to young 
poets, and perhaps written at Lady Luxborough's request that he 
should give her some rules on economy (letter of Lady Luxborough 
quoted in Shenstone: or The Force of Benevolence, note, p. 12). 
In this postscript — part third of Shenstone's poem — we read of 

The poet's roofs, the careless poet's, his 

Who scorns advice; 

of his room decked with fluttering spider-webs, 

Cell ever squalid, where the sneerful maid 
Will not fatigue her hand, broom never comes; 

of the walls 

in fady texture clad, 
WTiere wandering snails in many a shmy path. 
Free, unrestrained, their various journeys crawl; 

of the poet's chair with "fractured seat infirm" and "aged cush- 
ion" full of dust. Johnson at once jumps clumsily to the con- 
clusion that all this is true of the bard of the Leasowes, and forth- 
with issues his dictum holding the unthrift poet up to ridicule. 
Truly, humor to be read by Johnson should be carefully and 
plainly labeled! 

The supercilious or over-serious fault-finder has sometimes 
blamed the transformer of the Leasowes for vanity in hearing his 
place praised. Walpole's superficial criticism in this connection 
has been longer-lived and more influential than it deserves, as 
much of the world listened eagerly to "the pleasant Horace." 
Of Shenstone he writes: 

"Poor man! he wanted to have all the world talk of him for 
the pretty place he had made, which he seems to have made only 
that it might be talked of. The first time a company came to see 
my house I felt his joy. I am now so tired of it that I shudder 
when the bell rings at the gate. It is as bad as keeping an inn, and 
I am often tempted to deny its being shown" (Walpole: Works, V, 
p. 169). 


One can hardly help suspecting a little jealousy, and detecting 
more insincerity, in this light superciliousness of the owner of 
"a house full of playthings," of which he said he was as "fond as 
any bishop is of his bishopric." This simple house had "thirty- 
two windows enriched with painted glass." While Walpole was 
lavishing much of his large fortune thus, Shenstone was making 
his home in the pasture-lands beautiful and famous with only three 
hundred a year and his own affectionate supervision. Well might 
the man of wealth envy his skill. As to the pleasure of having 
Strawberry Hill admired, one friend, at least, understood that it 
was a pleasure by no means worn out to the owner, however much 
he might wish it to appear so. Having complained to his keen- 
sighted friend, Madame du Deffand, of the intrusions on his 
privacy, he received the ready reply, "Oh! vous n'etes point fache 
qu' on vienne voir votre chateau; vous ne I'avez pas fait singulier; 
vous ne I'avez rempli de choses precieuses, de raretes . . . pour y 
rester seul ou ne recevoir que vos amis" (Walpole: Letters, edited 
by Cunningham, V, p. 169, note). This was not the only time 
Walpole had expressed a modesty and humility that were only 
outward. As Shenstone remarks, "A man sooner finds out his 
own foibles in another than any other foibles" {Works, II, p. 227). 

A marked trait of Shenstone, which seems his by instinct as 
well as by cultivation, and which casts its charm over everything 
he did, is his love of a sequestered life and his unfailing delight in 
woods, waters, and all things rural. He called himself "a rural 
enthusiast" {Once a Week, VI). Yet the genuineness of this 
feeling has been more than questioned by the poet Gray in words 
quoted and beUeved by nearly every following writer on Shen- 

"I have read an octavo volume of Shenstone's letters; poor 
man! he was always wishing for money, for fame, and other 
distinctions; and his whole philosophy consisted in living against 
his will in retirement, and in a place which his taste had adorned, 
but which he only enjoyed when people of note came to see him 
and commend it" (Gray: Works, edited by Gosse, III, p. 344). 

This remark is quoted with as much patronizing satisfaction 
as Johnson's saying about the broken-roofed house; and it seems 
to me equally unfounded. That oft-echoed phrase, "Poor man!" 


has labeled Shenstone as an object of pity. What is Gray's 
authority for saying that he lived "against his will in retirement"? 
Gray, the sensitive, with his own love of retirement, should have 
understood better. How did he fail to perceive in another a real 
love of rural life, appearing almost constantly in Shenstone's 
poetry and so often in his letters, when he himself felt thus: 

"Happy they that can create a rose-tree, or erect a honey- 
suckle, that can watch the brood of a hen, or see a fleet of their 
OWQ duckUngs launch into the water. It is with a sentiment of 
envy I speak of it" (Gray: Letters, edited by Rideout, p. 131). 

He found in Shenstone's letters occasional wishes for money, 
to be sure, but no sordid wishes for it. Indeed, Shenstone had the 
independence to decline an offer of two hundred pounds, delicately 
made by WilUam Pitt, for improvements about the Leasowes 
that the owner could not afford to make {Recollections, pp. 82-83). 
In the letters he wrote, "If I wish for a large fortune, it is rather 
for the sake of my friends than myself. ... It is to gratify 
myself in the company and in the gratifications of my friends" 
{Works, III, p. 19). 

"Alas, that I cannot spare money to drain and to improve my 
lands" (p. 292). 

"If I had three hundred pounds to lay out about the Lea- 
sowes, I could bring my ambition to peaceable terms" (p. 85). 

There is a note of dissatisfaction, it is true, in the words, "I 
have often thought, myself, that were a person to live at the 
Leasowes of more merit than myself and a few degrees more 
worldly prudence, he could scarce want opportunities to procure 
his own advancement" (p. 166). And there are some natural 
expressions of ungratified desire for recognition and advancement, 
such as the following, which is half in play: — "Every one gets 
posts, preferments, but myself. Nothing but my ambition can 
set me on a footing with them and make me easy. Come then, 
lordly pride" (p. 82). But there are frequent emphatic expres- 
sions of love for the quiet of his home, love for the home itself. 
Here are a few of them: 

"I never leave home but with reluctance. I really love no 
PLACE so well; and it is a great favor in me to allow any one a 
week of my summer" (p. 251). 


After a visit to Lord Ward, Lord Gray, and the Worcester 
Music-meeting: "Very many of the noblesse, whom I had seen 
at the Leasowes, were as complaisant to me as possible; whereas 
it was my former fate in public places to be as little regarded as 
a journeyman shoemaker. . . . On the whole, I was not a little 
pleased that I had made this excursion, and returned with double 
relish to the enjoyment of my farm" (p. 319). 

"Very happy do I think myself, when, after a continual suc- 
cession of company, visits paid, and excursions taken, I can sit 
down in peace and quietness, to attend to the business of cor- 
respondence and friendship" (p. 368). 

"I look upon my scheme of embeUishing my farm as the only 
lucky one I ever pursued in my life" (p. 268). 

"I have three or four more of these superb visits to make 
and which I may not omit without giving real offense. To Lord 
Plymouth next week; Lord Stamford's the week after; then, 
to Lord Lyttleton at our Admiral's; and then to Lord Foley" 
(p. 341). 

A man who writes thus is plainly in retirement not against 
his will, but in accordance with his will and with his tastes. " After 
a certain time of life," writes Graves, "I do not think that any 
consideration would have bribed him to live away from the Lea- 
sowes" {Recollections, p. 136). But perhaps Gray had in mind 
also, two passages which have led some biographers to look upon 
Shenstone as a man disappointed in Ufe and throughout life, to 
say, as does Hugh Miller, with the inevitable echo of Gray, "Poor 
Shenstone! Never, as we may see from his letters, was there 
a man who enjoyed lifeless" {First Impressions of England and 
Its People, p. 155). Now there are only two passages, I beheve, 
which can possibly be so construed, even when taken out of their 
context and balanced by none of the passages of contentment. 
The first was written 1741, only a year or two after he had come 
into possession of the Leasowes: 

"Every little uneasiness is sufficient to introduce my whole 
train of melancholy considerations, and to make me utterly dis- 
satisfied with the life I now lead and the Ufe which I foresee I 
shall lead. I am angry, and envious, and dejected, and frantic, 
and disregard all present things, just as becomes a madman to do. 


I am infinitely pleased (though it is a gloomy joy) with the appli- 
cation of Dr. Swift's complaint, 'that he is forced to die in a rage, 
like a poisoned rat in a hole.' My soul is no more suited to the 
figure I make than a cable rope to a cambric needle: I cannot 
bear to see the advantages alienated which I think I could deserve 
and relish so much more than those that have them. Nothing 
can give me patience but the soothing sympathy of a friend, and 
that will only turn my rage into simple melancholy. I believe 
soon I shall bear to see nobody. I do hate all hereabouts already, 
except one or two. I will have my dinner brought upon my table 
in my absence, and the plates fetched away in my absence; and 
nobody shall see me; for I can never bear to appear in the same 
stupid mediocrity for years together, and gain no ground . . . 
Not that all I say here will signify to you; I am only under a fit 
of dissatisfaction, and to grumble does me good — only excuse 
me, that I cure myself at your expense" (Works, III, pp. 44-45). 

Hugh Miller ends his cjuotation with Swift's words and seri- 
ously calls the whole "a frightful confession" {First Impressions, 
p. 156). He pays no heed to the playful close, which shows that 
the whole is only a fit of dissatisfaction, and that the dissatisfied 
man is curing himself by pouring out the passing feeling to his 
trusted and understanding friend. Are the persons who have 
had like hours of discontent with everything in life so few that 
such feelings should call forth special notice? Are they all un- 
happy and disappointed men? How many, then, are the ordi- 
narily happy men? And does a man say that he is "angry, and 
envious, and dejected, and frantic" when he is so in truth, when 
the feelings are deeper than the surface? Mr. Mumby, quoting 
this letter in his collection, has the common sense to entitle it 
"A Good Grumble. " He quotes, too, another letter of Shenstone, 
that in which he writes, "I find no small delight in rearing all sorts 
of poultry. ... As I said before, one may easily habituate 
one's self to cheap amusements; that is, rural ones (for all town 
amusements are horridly expensive); I would have you cultivate 
your garden, plant flowers . . . write now and then a song, buy 
now and then a book, write now and then a letter" iyVorks, III, 
p. 160). 

That he was thoroughly discontented it is impossible to believe 
when we read this and other passages. He wrote : 


"You cannot think how much you gratified my vanity when 
you were here by saying that if this place were yours, you thought 
you should be less able to keep within the bounds of economy 
than myself. God knows it is pain and grief to me to observe 
her rules at all; and rigidly I never can. How is it possible to 
possess improvable scenes, and not wish to improve them? And 
how is it possible, with economy, to be at the expense of improving 
them upon my fortune? To be continually in fear of excess in 
perfecting every trifling design, how irksome! to be restrained 
from attempting any, how vexatious! So that I never can enjoy 
my situation, that is certain. Economy, that invidious old 
matron! on occasion of every frivolous expense makes such a 
hellish squalling that the murmur of a cascade is utterly lost to 
me" (p. 192). 

But this is not overwhelmingly serious, and he wrote also, 
"I almost hate the idea of wealthiness as much as the word. It 
seems to me to carry a notion of fulness, stagnation, and insigni- 
ficancy" (p. 137). To be sure, he wrote in 1741, "Probably 
enough I shall never meet with a larger share of happiness than 
I feel at present. If not, I am thoroughly convinced my pain is 
greatly superior to my pleasure." But he added in a moment, 
"I do not know how I am launched out so far into this complaint; 
it is perhaps a strain of constitutional whining. ... I will be 
as happy as my fortune will permit, and will make others so . . . 
I will be so" (pp. 59-60). 

He distresses his biographers by writing to Mr. Graves in 1746: 
"I have lost my road to happiness, I confess; and, instead of 
pursuing the way to the fine lawns and venerable oaks which 
distinguish the region of it, I am got into the pitiful parterre- 
garden of amusement, and view the nobler scenes at a distance. 
I think I can see the road, too, that leads the better way, and can 
show it to others; but I have many miles to measure back before 
I can get into it myself, and no kind of resolution to take a single 
step" (pp. 161-162). 

But when, as often, he was in ill health, he wrote as follows: 

"I am in as good spirits this instant as ever I was in my life; 

only 'Mens turbidum laetatur.' My head is a little confused; 

but I often think seriously that I ought to have the most ardent 

28 ^\^LLIAM shenstone and his critics 

and practical gratitude (as the Methodists choose to express 
themselves) for the advantages that I have; which, though not 
eminently shining, are such, to speak the truth, as suit my parti- 
cular humor, and therefore deserve all kind of acknowledgment. 
If a poet should address himself to God Almighty with the most 
earnest thanlvs for his goodness in allotting him an estate that 
was overrun with shrubs, thickets, and coppices, variegated with 
barren rocks and precipices, or floated three parts in four with lakes 
and marshes, rather than such an equal and fertile spot as 'the 
sons of men' delight in, to my apprehension he would be guilty 
of no absurdity. But of this I have composed a kind of prayer, 
and intend to write a little speculation on the subject. This 
kind of gratitude I assuredly ought to have and have" (p. 91). 

In his essays he pens these well-weighed lines: 

"We are oftentimes in suspense betwixt the choice of dif- 
ferent pursuits. We choose one at last doubtingly and with an 
unconquered hankering after the other. We find the scheme which 
we have chosen answers our expectations but indifferently — most 
worldly projects will. We therefore repent of our choice, and 
immediately fancy happiness in the paths which we decline; and 
this heightens our uneasiness. We might at least escape the 
aggravation of it. It is not improbable we had been more un- 
happy, but extremely probable we had not been less so, had we 
made a different decision " (Works, II, p. 245). The essayist here 
touches on an experience common to many, if not all, human beings. 

"I am miserable," he wrote comfortably in 1745, "conscious 
to myself that I am too httle selfish; that I ought now or never 
to aim at some addition to my fortune; and that I make large 
advances towards the common catastrophe of better poets, pov- 
erty" (Works, III, p. 120). But he was not miserable enough 
over his lack of riches to set about increasing his fortune in a 
business-Hke way. Instead he went on, '*I never can attend 
enough to some twelve-penny matter, on which a great deal de- 
pends. " Possibly he longed for a wife's companionship (p. 115), 
but the following words of his hardly indicate it: "I have often 
thought those to be the most enviable people whom one least 
envies — I believe married men are the happiest that are; but I 
cannot say I envy them" (p. 64). Of his friendship, or love 


affair, with the Miss C. of the Pastoral Ballad, with whom some of 
his biographers would have him deeply in love, he said to Graves, 
"My amour, in so far as I indulge it, gives me some pleasure, and 
no pain in the world" (p. 120). And he assured Graves, "Mar- 
riage was not once the subject of our conversation, nor even love" 
{Recollections, p. 106). 

The real state of the case seems to be — and in this he is truly 
the child of his time and of his Anglo-Saxon ancestors — Shenstone 
had in his poetry, his letters, and his own nature a vein of pensive- 
ness and not uncomfortable melancholy, which it was the literary 
custom of those days to express. We find it in Parnell, Young, 
Gray, Akenside, Thomson. It had been more deeply voiced cen- 
turies earlier in the oldest Enghsh lyrics. And Shenstone seems 
really to enjoy indulging himself in the expression of this "pleasing 
melancholy. " It is perhaps inseparable from a rich vein of humor 
such as his, a gentle playfulness, which, though it grew less after 
the death of his loved brother, did not desert him even in such 
loneliness. Those who often smile from the heart, sigh from the 
heart as well. Shenstone was "fearful of whining" {Works, III, 
p. 99). He valued "universal cheerfulness" and called it "worth 
all that either fortune or nature can bestow" (pp. 241, 242). He 
could smile, too, at his own sighing, and how that throws Ught on 
character! "Thus," he writes in 1743, "my epistles persevere 
in the plaintive style; and I question whether the sight of them 
does not, ere now, give you the vapors. I have an old aunt who 
visits me sometimes, whose conversation is the perfect counterpart 
of them. She shall fetch a long-winded sigh with Dr. Young for 
a wager; though I see his Suspiria are not yet finished. He has 
relapsed into Night the Fifth'' (p. 107). 

Landscape Gardening 

As a landscape gardener, Shenstone's influence was widespread 
and has proved lasting. It is, I beheve, in accordance with the 
best practice of our own day. He was among the first to grasp 
the ideas of freedom, openness, the "triumphs of the wavmg line," 
and the following of nature's own suggestions. Furthermore, he 
was among the first to put these principles into practice at once; 
and, though lavish by nature, he developed, perhaps perforce, 


the talent of demonstrating great principles and achieving really- 
remarkable artistic results wth small means. When nature with 
her springing step is the guide, when teaching and practice go 
hand in hand, and when the master, seeing that the work of his 
brain and hand is good, shows it himself with ready courtesy and 
something of a creator's satisfaction to all who seek him, — then 
indeed we expect and find an effective influence. 

The very name of Shenstone's estate, the Leasowes (an archaic 
word for pastures), has a quaint charm. His ferme ornee, as he 
often called the "paradise," which month by month and year by 
year he made from the one hundred and fifty acres of thickets, 
swamps, fields, and woodlands left him by his father, became a 
model for people far and near, bringing many a delightful and 
delighted guest to his door, and teaching a gracious art, in which 
we are trying now to instruct our young men and maidens. 

We may note in passing the words of Doctor Johnson on this 
part of Shenstone's work, words that have been quoted with far 
too great respect: 

"Whether to plant a walk in undulating curves, and to place 
a bench at every turn where there is an object to catch the view; 
to make the water run where it will be heard, and stagnate where 
it will be seen; to leave intervals where the eye will be pleased, and 
to thicken the plantation where there is something to be hidden, 
demands any great powers of mind I will not inquire; perhaps a 
surly and sullen spectator may think such performances the 
sport rather than the business of human reason" (Johnson: Works, 
III, p. 350). What better appreciation could we expect from a 
man to whom one mountain looked like the others, and all were 
mere protuberances on the surface of the earth? What he said 
of Shenstone was true of himself: "He had no value for those 
parts of knowledge which he had not himself cultivated." Yet 
he admits that such gardening is "an innocent amusement," and 
that "some praise must be allowed by the most supercilious obser- 
ver to him who does best what such multitudes are contending to 
do well." 

Shenstone wrote no elaborate or finished treatise on the sub- 
ject, but his Unconnected Thoughts on Gardening enunciate broader 
principles and are more practicable, far more widely available, 


thaa Bacon's famous directions for the conventional garden of a 
prince, with all its sumptuousness. Such sayings as these come 
from the pen of the artist of the Leasowes: 

"Ground should first be considered with an eye to its peculiar 
character; whether it be the grand, the savage, the sprightly, the 
melancholy, the horrid, or the beautiful. As one or other of these 
characters prevail, one may somewhat strengtlien its effect" 
{Works, II, p. 127). 

"Even the temper of the proprietor should not perhaps be 
wholly disregarded; for certain complexions of soul will prefer 
an orange tree or a myrtle to an oak or a cedar" (p. 138). 

"In designing a house and gardens, it is happy when there is 
an opportunity of maintaining a subordination of parts; the house 
so luckily placed as to exliibit the whole design" (p. 128). 

"The landscape painter is the gardener's best designer" (p. 

"When a building or other object has once been viewed from 
its proper point, the foot should never travel to it by the same 
path which the eye has traveled over before. Lose the object, 
and draw nigh obliquely" (p. 131). 

"The eye should always look rather down upon water; cus- 
tomary nature makes this requisite" (p. 130). 

"Water should ever appear as an irregular lake or a winding 
stream" (p. 141). 

"Apparent art in its proper province is almost as important 
as apparent nature. They contrast agreeably, but their provinces 
should ever be kept distinct" (p. 135). 

"The shape of ground, the site of trees, and the fall of water 
are nature's province. Wliatever thwarts her is treason" (p. 136). 

"Art, indeed, is often requisite to collect and epitomize the 
beauties of nature, but should never be allowed to set her mark 
upon them" (p. 142). 

Shenstone's use of urns and small obeUsks and of inscriptions 
dedicating seats or summer-houses, was a passing fancy of the age, 
but such maxims are lasting. 

His advice was sought by many landed proprietors in beauti- 
fying their estates. His ideas were quoted with respect and were 
adopted or developed by other writers on the same subject — by 


WTieatley in his treatise on Modern Gardening, by Mason in his 
long didactic poem, The English Garden, by the Marquis of Ermen- 
onville in his treatise on The Means of improving the Country 
round our Habitations {Recollections, p. 64), by Pindemonte, who 
traced the taste of Enghsh gardening to Shenstone {Curiosities 
of Literature, p. 97). A set of his works is kept in the landscape 
gardening department of the Boston Public Library. The Leasowes 
inspired Abbotsford. Scott writes in one of his prefaces, " I can trace 
even to childhood a pleasure derived from Dodsley's account of 
Shenstone's Leasowes; and I envied the poet much more for the 
pleasure of accomplishing the objects detailed in his friend's sketch 
of his grounds than for the possession of pipe, crook, flock, and 
PhiUis to boot" (Quoted in Miller: First Impressions, p. 121). 

In this connection it is worth while to notice the short essay 
introducing the selections from Shenstone in Warner's Library 
of the WorWs Best Literature (vol. 23, pp. 13305-7). The writer, 
whose name is not given, derives most of his material, in addition 
to the inevitable quotations from Johnson and Gray, from Tucker- 
man's chapter on the Z>//£'/to«te, and derives it, with no acknowledg- 
ment, by the path of bungling plagiarism. His only originahty 
lies in his inaccuracy, his attempted humor, and a vexatious 
assumption of doing justice, while he is in reality most unjust. 
The opening sentence shows the method of using material. Tucker- 
man begins: 

"A friend of mind recently purchased at auction an old copy 
of Shenstone. It is illustrated with a portrait and frontispiece 
representing some kind of aquatic bird peering up from among 
the reeds by the side of a little waterfall." 

The later writer begins thus: 

"Turning over the pages of a certain eighteenth-century annual, 
the reader comes upon a brown and yellow engraving of a land- 
scape garden: of walks in undulating curves, miniature lakes, 
little white cascades, Greek temples, pines and cypresses cut in 
grotesque shapes. Aquatic birds peer from out the reeds, and 
doves flutter in the trees." 

Now the "brown and yellow engraving" does not show nearly 
all the objects seen there by this ready writer. No pine or cypress 
is there, and all the trees have their natural grace of form, as might 


be expected from the pains Shenstone took with this picture of 
his grove. Not a tree cut in a grotesque shape is there or was 
ever on Shenstone's grounds. That is an artificial practice against 
which he specifically protests. ''Why fantastically endeavor," 
he exclaims, "to humanize those vegetables of which nature, 
discreet nature, thought it proper to make trees? " {Works, II, p. 
149). Surely it is unwise to write a critical estimate of an author 
with an important part of whose works the writer is wholly un- 

The beauty of the Leasowes, even though perishing from the 
neglect or destructive bad taste of following inartistic owners, 
attracted such visitors as Goldsmith, Hugh Miller, and Words- 
worth. Even as lately as 1905, Mr. W. H. Hutton of Oxford found 
great interest in visiting the spot, although only a few groups of 
Shenstone's groves and "hanging woods" of firs, elms, or beeches 
remained. Neglected and overgrown as they are, says this twen- 
tieth-century guest, the acres of the Leasowes show "as do few 
other places in England, how in the beginnings of the art, the 
principles of landscape gardening were developed" (Burford 
Papers, p. 186). 


It is hard to separate Shenstone's character, his gardening, 
and his poetry, for each one is an essential part of the others. The 
qualities of his poetry as a whole that most impress the careful 
reader are simplicity; fastidiousness of ear; refinement of taste; 
variety of poetic form; ingrained love of country life and of all 
the beauties of nature about him save those of winter; a profound 
admiration for the unostentatious private virtues, which are the 
foundation of all healthy hfe, whether individual or national, as 
opposed to ambition for court favor and glaring fame; and, despite 
much lifelessness of conventional phrasing, sincerity of feeUng 
"in an age when feeling was none too common" (Ward: The 
English Poets, p. 272). Take away the stereotyped pastoral phras- 
ing from Shenstone's poetry, and a large part of his artificiality 
disappears; take away still other fetters of convention, and the real 
feeling still remains. He does not stir our hearts deeply, but he 
does touch them in reality. At his best we find also, as in the 
Pastoral Ballad, great deUcacy of artistic perception and touch; 


or, as in The Schoolmistress, an easy picturesqueness, a warm 
sympathy in characterization, and a gentle humor, which recall 
in some measure tlie master-artist Chaucer. 

Certain supercilious words concerning our poet challenge our 
attention. They have so long been credited to Gray and quoted 
as his that, although it now seems probable from my investigations 
that they were really a forgery of his friend Mason's, they should 
be discussed here. 

"There is Mr. Shenstone, who trusts to nature and simple 
sentiment; Why does he do no better? He goes hopping along 
his own gravel walks, and never deviates from the beaten paths 
for fear of being lost"^ (Gray: Poems, with memoirs of his life 
and writings by Mason, p. 261). "This remark," says Anderson, 
"was made in connection with Shenstone's pieces in the last two 
volumes of Dodsley's Co//frf/ow " {Poets of Great Britain, IX, p. 261). 
It is only fair to note that his poems in these two volumes were 
published while he lay ill of a fever, and that Dodsley's friendly 
intentions were better than his judgment. " I had been mortified, " 
writes Shenstone, "by the first sight of what was done. To speak 
the truth, there are many things appear there contrary to my 
intentions; but which I am more desirous may be attributed to 

the unseasonableness of my fever than to my friend D 's 

precipitation. . . . The verses in the sixth volume (which was 
printed before the fifth) were printed without my knovvledge; 
and when I sent up an improved copy, it arrived a good deal too 

^ In Mason's edition of Gray (1775) these sentences appear in a letter 
(Letter 30) from Gray to Dr. Wharton dated from Cambridge, March 8, 1758. 
No sucli letter is printed in Gosse's edition (1885) or even in that of Mitford 
(1816). Gosse writes as follows of Mason's methods: — 

"He did not know what it was to be scrupulous in approaching a patron 
or in handling a text. With laim the end justified the means, and he t'nought 
no more of confuting a rascally enemy by introducing a forged paragraph into 
a letter than he did of completing an unfinished stanza or of suppressing a 
clumsy sentence. His version of Gray's Letters is crowded with alterations, 
interpolations, and transpositions. ... I have compared Mason's text again 
and again with Gray's actual holograph, and have experienced a sort of amaze- 
ment at the impudence that the collation reveals. ... I have ventured to 
expunge these and other forgeries altogether, when it is quite certain that they 
were introduced by Mason, and I have not cared to disturb the reader by any 
current reference to them" (Gray: Works, edited by Gosse, pp. xi-xii). 


late. ... As things happen, I am made to own several things 
of inferior merit to those which I do not own. All this is against 
me; but my thoughts are avocated from this edition and wholly 
fixed upon a future, wherein I hope Dodsley may be prevailed 
upon to omit some things also from other hands which discredit 
his collection" (Works, III, pp. 313-314). 

True, there is only a httle originality and much that is con- 
ventional in the poem.s here considered; but the emotions are real 
and natural, the love of nature is unmistakable, and there are 
many passages whose poetic perception of the beauty in common 
country things and whose flowing melody have still an almost 
haunting charm. Mr. W. H. Hutton admires, as many have done 
and still do, "that sensitive, dehcate touch" in Hope of the Pas- 
toral Ballad, and quotes the stanza: 

My banks they are furnished with bees, 

Whose murmur invites one to sleep; 
My grottos are shaded with trees, 

And my hills are white over with sheep. 
I seldom have met with a loss, 

Such health do my fountains bestow, 
My fountains all bordered with moss, 
Where the harebells and violets grow. 
"It sounds easy enough," he adds, "but really the tunefulness 
of it is inimitable" (Burford Papers, pp. 182-183). 

Mr. Saintsbury says that these same Hnes "and a few other 
such things obstinately recur to the memory and assert that their 
author was after all a poet. ... In the Spenserian stanza he 
is commendable. . . . His anapests are much more original. . . . 
Shenstone taught this metre [anapestic trimeter] to a greater poet 
than himself, Cowper, and these two between them have written 
almost everything worth reading in it, if we put avowed parody 
and burlesque out of the question" (Ward: The English Poets, 
p. 272). 

Feeling in The Dying Kid and Ode to Memory is tender and 
true, despite artificial expression. At least one passage has vivid 
picturesqueness of detail, as the poet, tired of ambitious years, 
exclaims : 

Oh, from my breast that season rase, 

And bring my childhood in its place; 
Bring me the bells, the rattle bring, 
And bring the hobby I bestrode, 


\Mien pleased in many a sportive ring 
Around the room I jovial rode. 

{Poetical Works, p. Il7)t 
Rural Elegance, published in this volume of Dodsley's Collection, 
shows true delight in 

All Nature's charms immense, and heaven's unbounded 

And Oh, the transport most alhed to song, 

To catch soft hints from Nature's tongue 

And bid Arcadia bloom around; 
Whether we fringe the sloping hill. 

Or smooth below the verdant mead, 
Or in the horrid bramble's room 
Bid careless groups of roses bloom, 
Or let some sheltered lake serene 
Reflect clouds, woods, and spires, and brighten 
all the scene. 

{Poetical Works, pp. 129-130) 

He has seen with pleasure the swain at evening 
Speed whistling home across the plain, 

(p. 130) 

and has noted 

^ The tangled vetch's purple bloom, 

The fragrance of the bean's perfume. 

(p. 132) 
He exclaims with deUght, 

I breathe fresh gales o'er furrowed ground. 

(p. 105) 

Before Bryant, before Wordsworth, he calls out to men, 
With Nature here high converse hold. 

(p. 132) 
Did Nature ever betray the heart that loved her? Moreover, 
was it not along one of Shenstone's own "gravel walks" that 
Gray himself walked safely to widespread and lasting fame when 
he wrote the Elegy in a Country Churchyard? 

After the fashion of their day, Shenstone's poems are classified 
by his pubUsher. The four groups are: Elegies; Odes, Songs, 
Ballads, etc.; Levities, or Pieces of Humor; Moral Pieces. Per- 
haps I may well follow the example of his most dogmatic and 
injurious critic. Dr. Johnson, in considering the groups in this 
order, and may well consider at the same time his criticisms upon 

t All references to Poetical Works are to Gilfillan's edition. 


them (Johnson: Works, III, pp. 335-359). Now Johnson's sayings 
against men either greater or less than Shenstone have by no means 
passed unquestioned, despite the energy with which they were 
expressed and the firm hold which they took on the public mind. 
Cowper wrote, "I am convinced . . . that he has no ear for 
poetical numbers, or that it was stopped, by prejudice, against 
the harmony of Milton's" {Life of Cowper; Private Correspondence, 
edited by Grimshawe, I, p. 139). No doubt there are numbers 
who have shared and who share to this day the earnest indignation 
of Sir Egerton Brydges: "For fifty years I have had an un- 
quenchable desire to refute Dr. Johnson's perverse criticisms and 
malignant obloquies" (Life of Milton, p. 99). Says Dugald Stew- 
art, "How wayward and perverse in many instances are his 
decisions when he sits in judgment on a political adversary, or 
when he treads on the ashes of a departed rival" (Stewart: Works, 
IV, p. 362). Johnson was "the most unpoetical of critics." 
Perhaps he was also the most unfit; but was there ever anything 
on the whole round earth of which he felt himself in the least 
incompetent to judge? It is amusing to see the uncouth man, 
too short-sighted to see or care for a landscape, too coarse of fibre 
to recognize dehcacy of feeling, too dull of ear to hear and enjoy 
the melody of lyric verse, too unhappy in sohtude ever to endure it, 
too obtusely serious to perceive any humor but the most lumber- 
ingly laborious, — to see this oracle advance pompously to sit in 
judgment on Shenstone, the fastidious in taste, the loving admirer 
of every beauty in nature, the man of refined and tender feeling, 
the poet of sweet and graceful melodies, the recluse happy in his 
rural quiet, the humorist whose fine playfulness brightens so 
many of his pages. 

Of the Elegies Johnson says that they "suit not ill" to the 
author's conception of Elegy, which he has in his preface "very 
discriminately and judiciously explained" as "the effusion of a 
contemplative mind, sometimes plaintive and always serious 
and therefore superior to the ghtter of slight ornaments." "His 
thoughts are pure and simple." Johnson says further that the 
Elegies lack variety, and that they have too much resemblance 
one to another. This is true in large measure, but it is sameness 
of mood and form rather than of subject that we find. One should 
hardly read the twenty-six at a sitting. The range of theme 



includes praise of simplicity, the language of birds, brave deeds 
of historic ancestors, complaint against Fortune, a recantation 
of the complaint, a shepherd's lament over British manufacture 
of woolens, the folly of superciUousness, the patriotism of the 
ancient Britons, and violation of the rights of sepulture, as well 
as the more usual themes of love and death. There is warm love 
of native land expressed m the fourteenth, in which he declines 
an invitation to visit foreign countries; the sketch of the girlish 
maniac on the plam is touching (Elegy XVI); and the tale of 
Jessy is told with a degree of real pathos (Elegy XXVI). These 
are, no doubt, the qualities that led the youthful Burns to call 
Shenstone "that celebrated poet whose divine elegies do honor 
to our language, our nation, and our species" (Burns: Works, 
II, p. ii. Preface to Original Kilmarnock Edition). 

As to the diction, it is often and often affected, but that "it 
is often harsh and improper; that the words are ill-coined or ill- 
chosen; and his phrases unskilfully inverted," is an over-statement 
with which Johnson contrives to stamp the whole as worthless. 
It is with pleasure that we note again Shenstone's observant love 
of nature in such Unes as these: 

Where the wild thyme perfumes the purpled heath, 

{Poetical Works, p. 41) 

I steal the musk-rose from the scented brake, 

(p. 40) 

Pleased if the glowing landscape wave with corn, 

(p. 50) 
or the simple strength of noble thought in the following: 

The sire, in place of titles, wealth, or power, 

Assigned him virtue; and his lot was fair, 

(p. 31) 

Farewell ! the virtues wliich deserve to live 

Deserve an ampler bliss than life bestows, 

(p. 32) 
or the vivid descriptive touch and stately music of these: 

From a lone tower with reverend ivy crowned, 

{Poetical Works, p. 29) 

And hoary Memphis boasts her tombs alone, 

The mournful types of mighty power decayed. 

(p. 28) 
It is not enough to say with Johnson, "The lines are sometimes, 
such as Elegy requires, smooth and easy." 


Of the Odes, Songs, and Ballads we may accept Johnson's 
saying that Shenstone's "lyric poems are almost all of the light 
and airy kind, such as trip lightly and nimbly along, without the 
load of any weighty meaning." That such a weight would give 
them the wings of inspired poesy, we cannot believe. Rural 
Elegance is exempted from the Doctor's general criticism because 
he has " once heard it praised by a very learned lady, " and because, 
in spite of the irregularity of line so obnoxious to his methodical 
nature, it contains "philosophic argument and poetic spirit." 
It is not only this very irregularity, but the wholesome delight 
in nature, the loving intimacy with her lesser graces, and the ap- 
preciation of her uplifting power through close friendship, — it is 
all this that gives us pleasure in the poems although the plain is 
still "painted" by the flowers, as in the hues of Pope. That none 
of the other lyrics are, on the whole, "excellent" we may agree. 
Shenstone wrote to Dodsley of his own songs, "The reason there 
are so many is that I wanted to write one good song, and could 
never please myself" {Works, I, p. VI). Still, Nancy of the Vale 
and the unpublished Valentine's Day in the manuscript are graceful 
and sweet, and there is fresh music and fresh feeling in the lament 
of imprisoned Princess Elizabeth: 

Peers can no such charms discover 

All in stars and garters drest, 
As on Sundays does the lover, 

With his nosegay on his breast. 

Hark to yonder milkmaid singing 

Cheerily o'er the brimming pail. 
Cowslips all around are springing, 

Sweetly paint the golden vale. 

Never yet did courtly maiden 

Move so sprightly, look so fair; 
Never breast with jewels laden 

Pour a song so void of care. 

Would indulgent Heaven had granted 

Me some rural damsel's part! 
All the empire I had wanted 

Then had been my shepherd's heart. 

None had envied me when living, 

None had triumphed o'er my tomb. 

{Poetical Works, p. 158) 


Dr. Johnson had the prevailing eighteenth century idea that 
all excellence and greatness belong exclusively to dwellers in cities 
and are never developed in quiet rural life. We feel like saying 
to him, in Shenstone's lines that foreshadow Wordsworth's touch 
and heart: 

Learn to relish calm delight, 

Verdant fields and fountains bright, 

Trees that nod o'er sloping liills. 

Caves that echo tinkling rills. 

If thou canst no charm disclose 
In the simplest bud that blows, 
Go, forsake thy plain and fold; 
Join the crowd, and toil for gold. 

{Poetical Works, p. 275) 

The four parts of the Pastoral Ballad, says Johnson, deserve 
particular notice, and he gives it. Yet his commendation of one 
passage as deserving sympathy from every mind that has any ac- 
quaintance with love or nature, of another passage as having "pret- 
tiness, " and of a third as mentioning "the commonplaces of 
amorous poetry with some address," is more than overbalanced 
by his opening blunt remark that he regrets it is pastoral, that 
"an intelUgent reader sickens at the mention of the crook, the 
pipe, the sheep, and the kids, which it is not necesfary to bring 
forward to notice, for the poet's art is selection, and he ought to 
show the beauties without the grossness of a country life. " These 
words reveal the critic's nature. Pastoral mechanism does become 
wearisome truly, when we read page after page without inspiration; 
but in the stanzas of this poem it seems perfectly at home. It is 
such an essential part of the landscape (which, to be sure, Johnson 
did not care for) that we should no more wish it away than we 
should wish away the green EngHsh grass, the "pinks in a morn," 
and the "eglantine after a shower." After all, the shepherd's 
life is real; and Shenstone well knew that life and the poetic beauty 
of its surroundings. The ballad hardly contains the experience 
written in heart's blood that some few have found in it, but it is 
a harmonious and exquisitely deUcate expression of true, though 
not profound, heart experience It is "emotion recollected in 
tranquility. " 


Shenstone's friends of the present day would probably be as 
well pleased if most of his Levities had not been printed. He 
himself would very likely have been better pleased, as we may 
understand from the pains he took to collect and destroy copies 
of his early anonymous volume of 1737 {Curiosities of Literature, 
III, p. 96, note), and from the words of Bishop Percy: "Among 
Shenstone's Levities and Songs are many which he himself sorely 
regretted to me had ever been committed to the press. But when 
Dodsley was printing that volume of his Miscellanies in which 
they first appeared, Mr. Shenstone lay ill of a fever, and, being 
unable to make any selection, ordered his whole portfolio to be 
sent to him, relying on his care to make a proper choice of what 
were fit to be pubhshed; but he intruded the whole into his volume, 
and afterwards used that as a plea for inserting them in his Works " 
(Nichols: Illustrations, VII, p. 152). Yet Johnson's charge 
that "his humor is sometimes gross and seldom sprightly" we 
cannot admit. Colemira, a Culinary Eclogue, has merit and is 
a not unpleasing satire on the pastoral love poem. It has an added 
interest in showing how Shenstone could laugh at one of his omi 
chosen forms of poetry. The Poet and the Dun is a respectable 
version of a standard literary joke. The charge of grossness does 
not apply save to a part of The Charms of Precedence with its tale 
of scandal. The second half of this poem Shenstone would very 
likely have suppressed; the first half deserves to Uve for its witty 
touches, and has nothing to shock even the moral Johnson. The 
lament of Slender's Ghost over "Sweet Anne Page," so easily 
and so happily expressed, and the lines written at an inn at Henley, 
we could ill spare. Suggested by love of Shakespeare, they have 
a touch of Shakespeare's spirit in their human way of smihng and 
sighing at the same moment, and making the reader share both 
feelings. Dr. Johnson himself, so Boswell tells us, repeated the 
lines "with great emotion" when they were dining together at an 
excellent inn at Chapel-house: 

Whoe'er has traveled Hfe's dull round, 
Where'er his stages may have been, 

May sigh to think he still has found 
His warmest welcome at an inn. 
Boswell adds, "My illustrious friend, I thought, did not sufficiently 
admire Shenstone" {Life of Johnson, II, p. 452). 


Of the Moral Pieces, it is only the two that are rhymed that 
Johnson thinks worthy of notice. Love and Honor he likes 
"well enough to wash it were in rhyme." It is a relief to the 
modern reader that it is not, although the heroic couplets of The 
Judgment of Hercules are pleasing enough. To quote Johnson 
again, "The nimibers are smooth, the diction elegant, and the 
thought just. " The Doctor's contempt for the blank verse of 
Shenstone is a part of his unreasoning contempt for all poetry of 
that form: "His blank verses those that can read them may 
probably find to be like the blank verses of his neighbors. " Cer- 
tainly it is not in such verse that Shens tone's gifts shine; he is 
not great enough for it. Written without genius, but carefully 
and with some freedom, skill, and taste, his poems of this form 
are pleasant on tlie first reading, but one is ready to wait some 
time for the second. Yet here again, Shenstone shows, or almost 
leads, the taste and tendency of his time towards variety of form 
and towards occasional use of richer, statelier harmonies than 
those of ever-recurring rhyme. Milton's influence was making 
itself felt against Pope's. 

It is small wonder that Johnson knows not what claim The 
Schoolmistress has to stand among the moral works, although 
Anderson justifyingly remarks that "it abounds with . . . serious 
instruction" (Poets of Great Britain, IX, p. 590). Shenstone 
meant it for an entirely different place, and it is hard to understand 
how Dodsley could make so stupid a blunder in classification when 
he must have had at hand the edition of 1742, which he had himself 
published. There it is printed with the author's entertaining 
'Ludicrous Index," which is filled with the same sustained play- 
fulness as the poem itself and was written, as the author says in 
his letters, "purely to show (fools) that I am in jest" (Works, III, 
p. 69). It is an agreeable addition to the poem, but was apparently 
not matter of fact enough to enhghten Dodsley, and might not 
have pierced Johnson's density. Following in their train, many 
readers have entirely mistaken the poet's tone. Would that the 
gift to perceive and enjoy the more dehcate forms of jesting might 
be more widely spread, and so broaden and refine the Hterary joys 
of all Doctor Johnson's ilk! Would that it might be required as a 
qualification for every critic who is to be regarded as competent 


and authoritative! As it is, Shenstone, of finer perceptions, had 
good reason to complain {Works, III, p. 69). 

"The Schoolmistress is surely the most pleasing of Shenstone's 
performances," says Johnson, yet it is only intellectual pleasure 
that he finds in it. "We are entertained at once with two imita- 
tions, of nature in the sentiments, of the original author in the 
style; and between them the mind is kept in perpetual employment. " 
He cares not for the genial humor, the winning youthfuJness of 
spirit, the warm, lowly, homelike comfort playing through and 
around the whole. He does not hear the easy yet skilful melody. 
The scores of deft touches given by Shenstone's ready imagination 
as he sketches "learning's Httle tenement," "the dame disguised 
in look profound " wearing her russet kirtle ("Twas simple russet, 
but it was her own"), the children "in gaping wonderment," 
"the weakly wights of smaller size," her garden with "marygold 
of cheerful hue" and lavender with "pikes of azure bloom," 
her elbow-chair, her friendly hen, and her ginger-bread, — all 
these find no imagination in the lexicographer's heart to start in 
ready response. 

Written avowedly as an imitation, this poem has lived for 
its originaUty. Gray may well say that it is "excellent of its kind 
and masterly" (Gray: Works, edited by Gosse, TI, p. 219). 
Mr. Otto Daniel's doctoral thesis emphasized its value as one of 
the earliest pioneer works in a special literary form, the lesser 
epic (Kleinepos), in which Goldsmith's Deserted Village, Goethe's 
Hermann und Dorothea, Wordworth's best poetic narratives, and 
finally Tennyson's Enoch Arden are prominent. He make? a de- 
tailed study of the three editions of the poem (1737, 1742, 1773) 
in regard to the literary forerunners and traditions to which 
Shenstone allied himself, the scope of his originality, his faithful- 
ness to the principles of poetry that he had himself enunciated 
in his essays and letters — especially simplicity and variety — and 
his influence on his successors. As models and traditions familiar 
to Shenstone and giving him inspiration for The Schoolmistress, 
he cites Ovid, Chaucer, Spenser, Milton, Rochester, Parnell, Pope, 
Ramsay, Prior, Gay, ballads, versions of the Psalms (pp. 12, 35). 
He notes the important fact that for his ideals of taste and genius 
Shenstone turned away from the French influence so long 


predominant in England (p. 20). Humor is duly pointed out. 
The literary pedigree of the dame's "one ancient hen" is traced 
faithfully back through the refractory fowl In the middle of the 
road shown in the picture of the Hales-Owen school-house {Gen- 
tleman's Magazine, luKV, p. 905), Thomson's "careful hen," the 
solitar}'' cat owned by Mause in The Gentle Shepherd, the hens 
mentioned with dogs and swine in Pope's Alley, Chaucer's Chaun- 
tecleer and Pertelote, to the single goose guarding the farmyard 
of the classic Baucis (pp. 63-64). A long procession of school- 
mistresses and schoolmasters in literature is made to file before 
us in impressive, though not splendid, array, until the type is 
well-nigh exhausted (pp. 86-93). ' 

Mr. Daniel seems hardly to appreciate the finer type of hu- 
morous imitation, of which this poem seems to me a master-piece, 
the high standard for burlesque set by Shenstone in both theory 
and practice (Works, III, pp. 61, 70). Hv. places The Schoolmis- 
tress beside Pope's vulgar Alley (Daniel, p. 25). Moreover, he 
seems, like Johnson, not to perceive the deftness of descriptive 
touch, the musical grace, the atmosphere of familiar comfort, 
the boyish freshness and genial sympathy with both age and 
childhood, which pervade the whole. He pays little heed to 

Her apron dyed in grain as blue, I trow, 

As is the harebell that adorns the field, 

(stanza 6) 
to her well-disciplined schoolroom. 

Where comely Peace of Mind and Order dwell, 

(stanza 7) 
to the herbs 

That in her garden sipped the silvery dew, 

(stanza 11) 

And pungent radish, biting infant's tongue, 

(stanza 19) 

to the feelings of the small offender, who after the whipping 
Abhorreth laench, and stool, and fourm, and chair, 
And deems it shame if he to peace incline, 

(stanzas 24, 26) 

to the village shop, where is to be found 

The gooseb'rie clad in livery red or green, 
And here of lovely dye the Catherine pear, 

(stanza 33) 


and to the cherries, which 

draw little eyes aside, 
And must be bought though penury betide. 

(stanza 34) 

Still, in its conclusion reached by thorough work, it is a valuable 
contribution to the worth of Shenstone's poem: 

"Durch das Zusammenspiel von Shenstone's litterarischen 
Vorgangern und seinen eigenen kritischen Ansichten, entwickelte 
sich die Schilderung des Kleinlebens, die friiher nur als Episode 
in grosseren epischen Zusammenhangen begegnete, zu selbst- 
standiger Form. Es entstand dadurch eine neue Gattung: kurze 
Verserzahlungen von kleinen Leuten im gewohnlichen Leben. 
Man karmdiese Gattung als Kleinepos bezeichnen " (Daniel, p. 78). 

Johnson's closing estimate is as follows: 

"The general recommendation of Shenstone is easiness and 
simplicity; his general defect is want of comprehension and variety. 
Had his mind been better stored with kiiowledge, whether he could 
have been great, I know not; he could certainly have been agree- 
able. " 

The last sentence makes null and void even the slight praise 
that had gone before. The judge hands down his decision on Shen- 
stone's poetry with an air of absolute finality: "inferior and 
disagreeable." This decision has persisted and spread like a 
noxious weed. Thus, as D'Israeli truthfully says, "the dogmatism 
of Johnson and the fastidiousness of Gray . . . have fatally in- 
jured a fine genius in Shenstone" {Curiosities of Literature, III, p. 90). 
The friends of Shenstone lay no claim to greatness in his behalf; 
that greater stores of learning would have made his poetry great 
only a pedant believes. But that he is a true and agreeable poet 
cannot well be denied by the unprejudiced critic. That he has 
genuine originahty, living, though neither profound nor of wide 
scope, and that he has had positive influence on the growth of our 
literature, should be openly declared, and spread as widely as 
the unjust censure of his ponderous critic. 

Traces of Shenstone's influence upon other and greater poets 
are not hard to iind, and have been pointed out by D'Israeli, 
Gilfillan, and Daniel. I must content myself with indicating a 
few. The influence of The Schoolmistress is seen and felt plainly 


in The Cotter^s Saturday Night, which has the same form, the like 
richness of homely detail, and the same warmly sympathetic feeling 
that springs from having been a part of the life portrayed. The 
tone is not playful; the spirit is earnest; yet, on the whole, Burns 
has here done for lowly rural home h'fe what Shenstone did earher 
•for lowly rural school life. Goldsmith's village schoolmaster, of 

still the wonder grew 
That one small head could carry all he knew, 

reminds one irresistibly of Shenstone's ancient dame and of her 
pupils, who 

think, no doubt, she been the greatest wight on ground. 

One portrait is a companion-piece to the other. In his elegies 
Shenstone helped to set the metrical form, the tone of "pleasing 
melancholy" without grief, and the wide range of pensiveness for 
Gray's far greater work. In Gray's Elegy, too, we find more 
specific traces of Shenstone. Before the former wrote of the 
"village Hampden" and "some mute, inglorious Milton," the 
latter had shown 

A little bench of heedless bishops here, 

And there a chancellor in embryo, 

Or bard sublime, if bard may e'er be so, 
As Milton, Shakespeare, names that ne'er shall die. 

{Poetical Works, p. 270) 

Every one recalls the perfect lines 

Full many a rose is born to blush unseen 
And waste its sweetness on the desert air, 

but few know the similar lines of Shenstone: 

WTiy has such worth without distinction died? 
Why, like the desert's lily, bloomed to fade? 

{Poetical Works, p. 8) 


WTiat is, unknown, the poet's skill? 

Or what the rose's blush unseen? 

{Poetical Works, p. 180) 
Shenstone's lines, 

If thou canst no charm disclose 
In the simplest bud that blows, 

foreshadowed the far richer thought of Wordsworth: 


To me the meanest flower that blows can bring 
Thoughts that do often lie too deep for tears. 

{hitimations of Immortality) 

The desire of the town-dweller 

Midst all the city's artful trim 

To rear some breathless, vapid flowers, 

{Poetical Works, p. 133) 

is reproduced by Cowper in The Task (Book IV, 1. 750). It may 
not be a mere fancy of mine that the lines 
I have found out a gift for my fair, 

I have found where the wood-pigeons breed, 
{Poetical Works, p. 152) 

suggested to Mrs. Browning the dainty romance of Httle Ellie 
sitting by the brookside in the grass, and thinking in her dream 
of happiness: 

I will have a lover, 
Riding on a steed of steeds; 
He shall love me without guile. 
And to him I will discover 

The swan's nest among the reeds. 
{Romance of the Swan's Nest, stanza 4) 

Emerson wrote: 

"Miller owns this field, Locke that, and Manning the woodland 
beyond. But none of them owns the landscape. There is a prop- 
erty in the horizon which no man has but he whose eye can integrate 
all the parts, that is, the poet. This is the best part of these 
men's farms, yet to this their warranty deeds give no title." 

(Works, I, p. 8). 

This thought was spoken earlier by Shenstone, who, after 

sketching the anxious care of the wealthy land owner to secure 

his claim for ages by bonds and contracts, says of the muse that 

her unreversed decree. 
More comprehensive and more free. 
Her lavish charter, taste, appropriates all we see. 

{Poetical Works, p. 128) 


Although Shenstone is best known as a poet, yet he has un- 
questionably greater originality as a critic of literature and of 
life. Dodsley was right long ago in saying, "His character as a 
man of clear judgment and deep penetration will best appear from 


his prose works" (Works, I, p. vii). Of hi? Essays on A fen and 
Manners I am tempted to write at great le.igth. That would be 
necessary in order to treat the theme satisfactorily, for it seems 
to me of ample interest and value for an entire thesis. It must 
be dismissed here in merely a few paragraphs. 

In easy grace, friendUness of manner, quiet humor, good sense, 
literary interest, and moral wholesomeness, many of these essays 
remind the reader of Addison's, though not as imitations. This 
is true oi An Impromptu, A Vision, the first and s cond Character, 
A Humorist, QXid An Adventure. One or two, such as Reserve and 
the paragraph on the pleasure of paying one's debts [Works, II, 
p. 161), have a touch of Bacon's compact comprehensiveness. In 
range of subject we are again reminded of the Spectator, for we 
find speculations on publications, dress, ghosts, hypocrisy, religion, 
taste, gardening, politics, books and writers, and card playing. 
The reader does not easily forget the man (really Shenstone himself) 
who is overheard at his devotions giving thanks that his name is 
"liable to no pun," that it "runs chiefly upon vowels and liquids," 
that he can laugh at his own folhes, foibles, and infirmities, and 
does not lack infirmities to employ this disposition {Works, II, pp. 
23, 24). Nor doss one forget the distinction between the gentleman 
f/e /ac/o and the gentleman c?ej?We; the tale of the spider which had 
enslaved the world and of the ant which obstructed that design; 
the allegory of the soul who forsook her guide, the matron Reason, 
to be led through life by the beautiful young Passions; the parti- 
culars concerning the Most Powerful Order of Beauties to be estab- 
lished for the ladies; the "artificial laughter" to be used by the 
modest man who would otherwise be laughed down by the im- 
pudent; the charming Character meant to delineate Richard Graves 
at Oxford; and the suggestion that dress should be according 
to merit, that "a man should not wear a French dress till he could 
give an account of the best French authors, and should be versed 
in all the oriental language? before he should presume to wear 
a diamond" (Works, II, p. 61). 

The essays are short; some are unfinished; and many pages 
are filled with unconnected paragraphs or yet briefer aphorisms. 
It is remarkable that a man who had mingled so little with others 
and who lived so secluded a life should understand human nature, 


its varieties and its idiosyncrasies so well. Some of his sayings 
are timely even now: 

"If national reflections are unjust because there are good men 
in all nations, are not national wars upon much the same footing? " 
{Works, II, p. 148) 

"To endeavor all one's days to fortify our minds wth learning 
and philosophy is to spend so much in armor that one has nothing 
left to defend" (p. 198). 

"There are many modes of dress v/hich the world esteems 
handsome which are by no means calculated to show the human 
figure to advantage" (p. 165). 

"I fancy the proper means of increasing the love we bear our 
native country is to reside some time in a foreign one" (p. 148). 

"Not Hebrew, Arabic, Syriac, Coptic, nor even the Chinese 
language, seems half so difficult to me as the language of refusal" 
(p. 158). 

"When a gentlemen oft'ers me cards, I shall esteem it as his 
private opinion that I have neither sense nor fancy" (p. 78). 

Shenstone's diction is pure and generally natural, having 
withal sufficient dignity. His sentences are lucid, well-turned, 
varied, often epigrammatic, preserving the skilful prose structure 
of the preceding generation. His aphorisms tempt one to quote 
by the score. I give a few: 

"If any one's curse can effect damnation, it is not that of the 
pope, but that of the poor" {Works, II, p. 236). 

"The works of a person that builds begin immediately to decay, 
while those of him who plants begin directly to improve" (p. 137). 

"Dress, like writmg, should never appear the effect of too 
much study and application" (p. 164). 

"Laws are generally found to be nets of such texture as the 
little creep through, the great break through, and the middle- 
sized are alone entangled in" (p. 151). 

"Necessity may be the mother of lucrative invention, but is 
the death of poetical" (p. 195). 

"A courtier's dependent is a beggar's dog" (p. 148). 

"Avarice is the most opposite of all characters to that of God 
Almighty, whose alone it is to give and not receive" (p. 230). 



Of Shenstone's correspondence three volumes have been 
published: Letters to Particular Friends; Hull's Select Letters 
between the late Duchess of Somerset, Lady Luxborough, Miss 
Dolman, Mr. Whistler, Mr. R. Dodsley, William Shenstone, and 
others; and his correspondence with Thomas Percy. An undated 
letter of his was bought at a sale ia London within a few years by 
Mr. Hutton, who prints it in his Burford Papers, saying it has 
been hitherto unprinted (p. 187). DTsraeli, however, quoted 
somewhat freely from it as from the second volume of Hull's 
collection {Curiosities of Literature, III, p. 99). A letter of special 
interest, written by Shenstone to Mr. MacGowan in 1761 and 
printed at length ia the Edinburgh Annual Register of 1809, is 
given in Nichols' Illustrations, VII, p. 220. Of Shenstone's long 
correspondence with Lady Luxborough, only her own contribu- 
tion has been published. In 1862 his correspondence with John 
Scott Hylton was in the possession of E. Jesse {Once a Week, VI). 
Dr. Hecht states that there are among the manuscripts of the 
British Museum letters of his to Lady Luxborough, Hylton, and 
Robert Dodsley, the leading publisher of his time {Percy-S hen- 
stone, p. xvi). The destruction of his letters to Whistler by the 
latter's unsympathetic surviving brother, Shenstone deeply 
regretted, as he considered them among his best productions 
{Works, III, p. 269). 

Hull's collection I have not succeeded in finding in the libraries 
of this country, and a few years ago Mr. Hutton had difficulty 
in obtaining it in England {Burford Papers). Of the intimate 
letters, written, as their author said to Jago, "as often as I feel a 
violent propensity to describe the notable incidents of my life, 
which amount to about as much as the tinsel of your little boy's 
hobby-horse" (Works, III, p. 157), I have quoted enough in an 
earlier section to show their revelations of character. 

In this connection, again Gray makes an inconsiderate and 
unreasonable charge: "His correspondence is about nothing 
else but his place, and his own writings, with two or three neigh- 
boring clergymen who wrote verses too" (Gray: Works, III, 
p. 344). 


Gray's charge is repeated and amplified by Mr. GilfiUan, who 
writes thus: "His Letters are filled with the httle complaints, 
the little gratifications, the Httle journeys, the Httle studies, and 
the Httle criticisms, of one whom indolence and rustication had 
reduced to a little man. They are, however, lively and agreeably 
written, although not quite free from afifectation. . . . The 
worst thing in Shenstone's correspondence is a small querulousness, 
which sends a jarring undertone through all its otherwise amusing 
pages. His very misery is of Lilliputian stature" (Shenstone: 
Poetical Works, edited by Gilfillan, p. xix). 

Neither of these accusers knew anything of Shenstone's letters 
to Percy, which were not published until 1909. They write only 
from the perusal of his Letters to Particular Friends. Of these, 
nearly all are written to the two most intimate friends he ever had. 
Graves and Jago. To them he pours out his passing moods, his 
changing interests, his daily occupations. He had no wife, no 
sister, no one in his household with whom he could talk thus freely 
(his only brother, Joseph, Hved at Bridgenorth), and every human 
being must talk of these little commonplaces to some one, now 
and then. His cascades, his carnations, his murmuring streams, 
gave him real pleasure; and his loving care of them he delighted to 
share, as well as his sadness when winter blighted his garden. It: 
is only a dwarfed nature that finds no beauty and pleasure in small 
things. Moreover, Shenstone seriously approved of egotism in 
letters {Works, HI, p. 241). Particular friends certainly wish to 
know of the things large and small that go to make up their friend's 
Hfe. Why should not Shenstone talk of his changes in The School- 
mistress, of his designs for its second edition, of his verses to Venus, 
of his Pastoral Ballad, as freely as Lowell does of his volume. The 
Nooning, and of the metre in his noble Commemmoration Ode? 
Why should he not talk to his friends of his headaches and fevers, 
as does poHshed Walpole of his gout and his "bootikin" to the 
Countess of Ossory? Why should he not talk of the Leasowes as 
Scott does of the improvements at Abbotsford {Letters to Mr. 
Polwhele, September, November, 1812)? Another prince of 
letter-writers, Cowper, dwells freely on his own states of mind, 
his poetry, his little studies, and his potted plants. But as to 
Shenstone's writing of nothing else, what shall we say when page 


after page shows his vnde and keen Hterary interest? He writes 
a delightfully amusing letter in the style of Pamela {Works, III, 
pp. 4-6); he speaks of Thomson as "that sweet-souled bard" 
(p. 138); he criticizes the Castle of Indolence for omissions, while 
admiring it as an imitation of Spenser (p. 174); he has received 
Voltaire's new tragedy from London, and speaks of his amusement 
in reading the Lettres de Madame dc Maintenon (p. 239); he finds 
the reading of Clarissa Harloive "threatens to grow extremely 
tedious," as he saunters about his grounds, thinking the author 
might be "less prolix," though he is a "man of genius and nice 
observation" (p. 188); he criticises Gibber and other actors (pp. 
28, 74) ; he lends a Life of Socrates (p. 188) ; he tires of Parson Adams 
(p. 81); he is "now like the rest of the world, perusing Sir Charles 
Grandison," whose author "wants the art of abridgement in every- 
thing he write?" (p. 258); he alludes often to Shakespeare and his 
favorite Falstaflf (pp. 92, 93, 224); he finds Thomas Warton's 
inscriptions "too simple even for my taste" (p. 322); he advises, 
"Pray read Madame de Sevigne's Letters," and, "Of all books 
whatever, read Burke (second edition) Of the Sublime and Beautiful" 
(p. 337); he says, "Rasselas has a few refined sentiments thinly 

scattered, but is, upon the whole, below Mr. J " (p. 340); 

he mentions (p. 363) Percy's Reliques; he writes of Robinson's 
History (p. 372), of Hull's Rosamond (p. 373), of Gerard on Taste 
(p. 342); he thinks The Dunciad "flat in the whole" (p. 37); he 
finds entertainment in Hogarth's Analysis of Beauty (p. 260); 
he designs illustrations for Pamela (p. 4); he is deeply interested 
in a new and beautiful edition of Horace with its scholarly text 
and well-executed frontispiece (pp. 378, 381); he gives his estimate 
of Handel's music in the Messiah (pp. 318-319). And so I might 
go on, but I will pause with remarks of his on three of his critics. 
"Mr. Walpole is a lively and ingenious writer; not always ac- 
curate in his determinations, and much less so in his language; 
too often led away by a desire of routing prejudices and destroying 
giants. ... He has with great labor, in his Book of Painters, 
recorded matters of little importance relative to people that were 
of less. I have a right to be severe [as usual, a glint of playfulness], 
for his volumes cost me above thirty shillings; yet, where he drops 


the antiquarian in them, his remarks are striking and worth peru- 
sal" (Works, III, pp. 381, 382). 

"I have lately been reading one or two volumes of The Rambler; 
who, excepting against some few hardnesses in his manner and 
the want of more examples to enliven, is one of the most nervous, 
most perspicuous, most concise, and most harmonious prose- 
writers I know. A learned diction improves by time" (Works, 
III, pp. 353-354). 

"Mr. Gray, of manners very delicate, yet possessed of a poetical 
vein fraught with the noblest and sublimest images, and a mind 
fraught with the more mascuUne parts of learning" (Works, II, 
p. 289). 

In this connection, we may well note Shenstone's modesty 
and hesitation about publishing his own works. He would be 
"sorry to obtrude stuff" upon the world, "either from the pencil 
or the pen" (Works, III, p. 331), and he hesitates about publishing 
his collected works by subscription, lest, even if they are embel- 
Ushed with top and tail pieces and views from his farm "in an 
elegant manner, " this method may be a trifle disreputable (Works, 
III, pp. 370, 371; Percy-Shenstone, pp. 69-71). Such a thing he 
hopes to avert by advertising that "unless a certain number were 
subscribed for, the whole affair should be no farther prosecuted" 
(Works, III, p. 371). 

The letters to Percy, all written in Shenstone's riper years, 
have the same qualities — unfailing courtesy, warm friendship, 
ease and variety of expression, fondness for a good joke or anecdote, 
love of home, interest in all things artistic or literary; but the pro- 
portion of the personal is much smaller than in those to Graves and 
Jago, that of literary discussion much larger. The pages abound 
with critical comment, thoughtful suggestion, good practical 
sense, fineness of taste, genial breadth of spirit, wide learning, 
and keen understanding of the tendencies of the time. The 
small talk is full of easy grace. How Httle did Gray and Johnson 
understand this man! We sliould like to confront them with 
these letters, which have a charm like Lowell's and Cowper's. For- 
tunate indeed it is for the student of Enghsh literature that they 
are now accessible. My chief consideration of them belongs, 
however, in the next section. 


Literary Criticism 

Shenstone wrote no systematic or complete treatise on litera- 
ture or on the principles of literary criticism. The short, interest- 
ing essay on Elegy is his only comprehensive treatment of even 
any small portion of the field of letters. For the rest, his ideas 
are to be found in his correspondence, and in the pages on Books and 
Writers which are in the volume of essays. I have already quoted 
from the Letters to Particular Friends many opinions on specific 
literary matters of his day, and they abound in his pages to Percy. 
The two exchange their manuscript verses and inscriptions for 
opinions and suggestions {Percy-Shenstone, pp. 10, 13, 64, 65); 
they exchange new books, for, in his winter seclusion, Shenstone 
declares, "I hunger more for a six-penny pamphlet than I do for 
the freshest barrel of oysters" (p. 91); each in turn urges the other 
to visit him, as " there will indeed be no end of writing all we have 
to say" (p. 43); they consider in detail the pubUcation of Shen- 
stone's works by subscription, and Percy strongly advises it 
(pp. 69-71). Shenstone urges Percy to read the Prolusions, Ancient 
Fragments of Erse Poetry, and Webb's treatise On Painting. He 
discusses matter for a "ludicrous essay" on false taste, and declares, 
in connection with Mr. Spence's history of such taste, "I do not 
expect any great matter from a subject of humor in my friend's 
hands" (p. 41). The work of the well-known Birmingham printer, 
Baskerville, receives both admiration and censure (pp. 41, 59, 84), 
and Shenstone declares that "well-judged and elegant wooden 
tail -pieces are an ornament much wanting to every press in Europe" 
(p. 66). He has been reading "the Edinburgh Homer, a Miscel- 
lany of Allan Ramsay's, Scotch Proverbs, Scotch Ballads" until, 
he declares, "I am grown almost a Scotchman" (p. 12). Of 
Webb's Essay on Poetry, he remarks, "He has something clever" 
in it, "but he is too laconic and does not say enough for what his 
title implies" (p. 80). Of Dr. Johnson he writes, "I have a pre- 
judice (if prejudice it may be called) in favor of all he undertakes, 
and wish the world may recompense him for a degree of industry 
very seldom connected with so much real genius" (p. 7). His 
opinion of Collins' Oriental Eclogues is this: "The Orientals fur- 
nished a new and very fertile subject for eclogues. Poor Collins 


did not wholly satisfy me, having by no means sufficiently availed 
himself of their many local peculiarities" (p. 31). The translation 
of Madame de Sevigne's Letters which fell in his way he finds "is 
very inaccurate yet somewhat spirited; seems the hasty production 
of some Frenchman by no means void of genius" (p. 26). 

Shenstone discusses, also, older and greater authors. Vergil 
gives him "excessive pleasure, beyond any other writer, by uxiiting 
the most perfect harmony of metre with the most pleasing ideas 
or images" (p. 200). "I have sometimes thought Vergil so re- 
markably musical that, were his lines read to a musician wholly 
ignorant of the language, by a person of capacity to give each 
word its proper accent, he would not fail to distinguish in it, all the 
graces of harmony" (p. 270). Of Spenser's Fairy Queen Shenstone 
writes: "The plan appears to me very imperfect. His imagination, 
though very extensive, yet somewhat less so, perhaps, than is 
generally allowed, if one considers the facihty of realizing and 
equipping forth the virtues and vices. . . . Much art and judg- 
ment are discovered in parts, and but little in the whole. One 
may entertain some doubt whether the perusal of his monstrous 
descriptions be not as prejudicial to true taste as it is advantageous 
to the imagination. Spenser, to be sure, expands the last, but 
then he expands it beyond its true limits" (p. 186). 

There is much of value in Shenstone's enunciation of general 
principles; and here he shows the same taste, breadth, and penetra- 
tion. Especially does he emphasize clearness, correctness, sim- 
plicity, and naturalness. He insists that obscurity is the reverse 
of all good writing, and goes so far as to wish to banish enigmas 
for this reason {Recollections, p. 99). "Nothing," he declares, 
"tends so much to produce drunkemiess and even madness as 
the frequent use of parentheses in conversation" {Works, II, p. 
201). He is "a passionate lover of simplicity" {Percy-Shenstone, 
p. 74), and has tried in his "correcting" of his own works to secure 
ease and simplicity {Percy-Shenstone, p. 74). "Very few senti- 
ments are proper to be put in a person's mouth during the first 
attack of grief. Everything disgusts but mere simplicity," and 
he cites the scriptural writers {Percy-Shenstone, p. 194). He turns 
also to the classics: "The chief advantage that ancient writers 
can boast over modern ones, seems owing to simpUcity. Every 


noble truth and sentiment was expressed by the former in the 
natural manner; in word and phrase, simple, perspicuous, and 
incapable of improvement. What then remained for later writers 
but affectation, witticism, and conceit? " (See also Percy-Shenstone, 
pp. 46, 80; Works, II, pp. 176, 203). 

Naturalness in characters he stresses thus: " Perfect characters 
in a poem make but little better figure than regular hills, perpen- 
dicular trees, uniform rocks, and level sheets of water in the forma- 
tion of a landscape. The reason is, they are not natural, and 
moreover want variety" {Works, II, p. 184). "One feels the same 
kind of disgust in reading Roman history which one does in novels, 
or even epic poetry. . . . The hero, the knight-errant, and the 
Roman are too seldom overcome" {Works, II, p. 196). He em- 
phasizes the same quality in style. "I hate a style, as I do a garden 
that is wholly flat and regular; that slides along like an eel, and 
never rises to what one can call an inequality" {Works, II, p. 176). 
He dislikes "the present pomp and haughtiness of style" {Percy- 
Shenstone, p. 18), flowery rhetoric {Works, II, p. 193), and the 
practice of those writers who "think they cannot too much stiffen, 
or raise, or ahenate their language from the common idiom" 
{Percy-Shenstone, p. 74). Emotion he considers essential to poetry. 
"I think nothing truly poetic, at least no poetry worth composing, 
that does not strongly affect one's passions" {Works, II, p. 176. 
See also Percy-Shenstone, p. 46). 

His fastidious taste in the music of verse is shown over and 
over again, and he finds "small pleasure in poetical prose unless 
exquisitely well-tuned" {Works, III, p. 38). Of MacPherson's 
Ossian,h.t writes, "I think a translator of a finer ear might cause 
these things to strike infinitely more, and yet be faithful to the 
sense {Percy-Shenstone, p. 69). "Harmony of period and melody 
of style," Shenstone asserts, "have greater weight than is generally 
imagined in the judgment we pass upon writing and writers. As 
a proof of this, let us reflect what texts of scripture, what lines 
of poetry, or what periods we most remember and quote, either 
in verse or prose; and we shall find them to be only musical ones" 
{Works, II, p. 204. See also pp. 180, 181, 203, 170, 275; and Percy- 
Shenstone, p. 17). Alliteration he declares "an easy kind of beau- 
ty," which has "probably had its day" (Works, II, pp. 179-180). 


On many lesser principles of literature there are remarks worth 
noting. "There is nothing so disagreeable in works of humor 
as an insipid, unsupported vivacity, the very husks of drollery" 
(Works, II, p. 267). "A poet that fails in writing becomes often 
a morose critic" (Works, II, p. 186). "Critics must excuse me 
if I compare them to certain animals called asses, who, by gnawing 
vines, originally taught the great advantage of pruning them" 
(Works, II, p. 192). "It is idle to be much assiduous in the perusal 
of inferior poetry. Homer, Vergil, and Horace give the true taste 
in composition; and a person's own imagination should be able 
to supply the rest" (Works, II, p. 194). "May not excess of 
negligence discover affectation as well as its opposite extreme?" 
(Works, II, p. 274). The aim of elegy is to treat any kind of sub- 
jects "in such a manner as to diffuse a pleasing melancholy" 
(Works, I, p. 5). "The grand exception to fables consists in giving 
speech to animals, etc., a greater violation of truth than appears 
in any other kind of writing. . . . Their peculiar advantage 
is to remove the offensiveness of advice. . . . One should perhaps 
pursue a medium betwixt the superfluous garniture of La Fontaine, 
and the naked simplicity and laconism of Phaedrus" (Works, III, 
p. 333). It is Shenstone's maxim " to take no notice of undeserved 
censure" (Percy-Shenstone, p. 31); and of Grainger's defense against 
the scurrility of Smollett, he exclaims, " Wlio would fight a scaven- 
ger in the street?" (Percy-Shenstone, p. 16) He tires of the 
"modern shackles of a long string of rhymes, which often "make 
a second line languish and appear only a supplement to the first" 
(Percy-Shenstone, p. 22). Of the distinction to be made between 
songs and ballads, he says, "For my own part, I, who love by 
means of different words to bundle up distinct ideas, am apt to 
consider a ballad as containing some little story, either real or 
invented" (Percy-Shenstone, p. 52). 

Translation Shenstone did not regard as literary work of great 
value. "I have known a person of the truest genius take great 
pains to translate a poem, when with one tenth part of the labor 
he could have composed a poem ten times better" (Percy-Shenstone, 
p. 31). He urges Percy by all means to read Young's Conjectures 
on Original Composition, and would not murmur at the effect if 
it should deter him from writing any more translations after that 


of Ovid, provided it would lead him to write originals {Percy- 
Shenstone, p. 17). Dr. Brandl observes that this influential book 
of Young's was greeted with undivided warmth only by Horace 
Walpole and Shenstone {Percy-Shenstone, p. 103). 

The desires and dawning tendencies of the age Shenstone under- 
stood remarkably. He shows this nowhere, perhaps, so plainly as 
in a letter written to Mr. MacGowan concerning the fragments 
of Erse poetry: 

"The translator has taken pretty considerable freedoms in 
adapting them to the present reader. I do not in the least dis- 
approve of this, knowing by experience that trivial amendments 
in these old compositions often render them highly strilving, which 
would otherwise be quite neglected. ... I would wish the 
editor particularly attentive to the melody of his cadences, when 
it may be done without impeachment of his fidelity. The melody 
of our verse has been, perhaps, carried to its utmost perfection; 
that of prose seems to have been more neglected, and to be capable 
of greater than it has yet attained. It seems to be a very favorable 
era for the appearance of such irregular poetry. The taste of the 
age, so far as it regards plan and style, seems to have been carried 
to its utmost height. . . . The public has seen all that art can 
do, and they want the more striking effect of wild, original, en- 
thusiastic genius. . . . Here is indeed pure, original genius, 
the very quintessence of poetry, a few drops of which, properly 
managed, are enough to give a flavor to quart bottles" (Nichols: 
Illustrations, VII, p. 220). 

Shenstone was one of the best-knowoi men of letters of his 
time. His judgment and assistance were freely asked by such 
men as Jago, Graves, Vernon, Hull, and Dodsley, and were freely 
given. They were valued not only for their courtesy, but also for 
their firm frankness. He does not fail occasionally to criticize 
his friends rather sharply, or at least plainly, as he thinks "this 
is the business of friendship in all circumstances of this kind" 
{Percy-Shenstone, p. 63). He writes of Percy's cherished transla- 
tion of a Chinese novel: "The novel, though in some parts not 
void of merit, must certainly draw its cliief support from its value 

as a curiosity I think the public must esteem itself as 

much obliged to the editor as the editor has grounds to be offended 


at the printer" (Percy-Shenstone, p. 63). He has asked Percy to 
translate a certain tuneful little French chanson, which has charmed 
him, but writes to the translator about the result- "Mr. Percy, 
I conceive, held the little chanson rather too cheap. The trans- 
lation will not do, either in point of metre or expression" (p. 30). 
Another time he says bluntly, "The printed ballads you sent are, 
I think, by no means worth preserving" (Works, II, p. 45). 

Dr. Hecht assures us that the correspondence with Robert 
Dodsley shows much of Shenstone's judgment and enriching 
assistance in the collection of Poems by Several Hands and in 
Dodsley 's own tragedy of Cleone (Percy-Shenstone, p. XVI). His 
pubHshed letters also show this (Works, III, pp. 257, 282, 288, 
298, 303), and show besides how much he helped and influenced the 
same pubhsher in his collection of fables (Works, III, pp. 333, 361, 
362, 365; Percy-Shenstone, pp. 41, 69). But his fullest, most 
positive, and most far-reaching influence of this nature was in 
connection with the Reliques of Ancient English Poetry of Thomas 
Percy, who was then the young chaplain of the Earl of Sussex, and 
afterwards Bishop of Dromore. 

Although Percy, with his apologetic air in the original preface 
of his Reliques, did not suspect it, the volume was to be one of the 
strongest, most wholesome, and most lasting influences in bringing 
English poetry back from the stilted and the stereotyped to fresh- 
ness and to pulsing life (Beginnings of the English Romantic Move- 
ment, p 133; Percy-Shenstone, p. xi). Dr. Johnson had advised 
the publication of the ballads, and had seemed to approve it, 
promising to help in selecting and revising, and to furnish an 
abundance of learned notes. "These promises, however," writes 
Percy, "he never executed, nor, except for a few slight hints de- 
livered viva voce, did he furnish any contributions, etc." (Percy- 
Shenstone, p. 9) Furthermore, in the Rambler in 1751 he ridiculed 
the taste for ballads; and he was not a man of changeable mind 
(Beginnings of the English Romantic Movement, p. 134). Instead 
of Johnson, Shenstone becamie Percy's constant adviser in this 
matter, until his illness and death, giving freely and fully of his 
advice in frequent letters and in prolonged conversations with 
Percy at the Leasowes (Percy-Shenstone, p 49). " The manuscript 
was shown to several learned and ingenious friends," writes the 


editor, "who thought the contents too curious to be consigned 
to obUvion, and importuned the possessor to select some of them 
and give them to the press. ... At length the importunity of 
his friends prevailed, and he could refuse nothing to such judges 
as the author of the Rambler and the late Mr. Shenstone, " {Reliques 
of Ancient English Poetry, 1, p. xiii). "The plan of this work was 
settled in concert with the late elegant Mr. Shenstone, who was 
to have borne a joint share in it, had not death unhappily pre- 
vented him. ... It is doubtless a great loss to this work that 
Mr. Shenstone never saw more than about a tliird of one of these 
volumes, as prepared for the press" (p. xvii). 

Without Shenstone, the old ballads so fortunately saved from 
kindling fires to warm the hands, would probably never have been 
published to warm the heart; for, although they gave lively pleasure 
to the owner, he was much afraid of being ridiculed as a mere 
ballad-monger if he showed a taste for such things {Percy-Shenstone, 
p. 87). His first mention of his "curious old manuscript collection 
of ancient ballads " (1757) brings from Shenstone the eager response, 
"You pique my curiosity extremely by the mention of that ancient 
manuscript, as there is nothing gives me greater pleasure than 
the simpUcity of style and sentiment that is observable in old 
English ballads. If aught could add to that pleasure, it would 
be an opportunity of perusing them in your company at the Lea- 
sowes, and pray do not think of publishing them until you have 
given me that opportunity. . . . Suppose you consider your 
manuscript as an hoard of gold, somewhat defaced by time, from 
which, however, you may be able to draw supplies upon occasion, 
and with which you may enrich the world hereafter under more 
current impressions" {Percy-Shenstone, pp. 6, 7). Percy, delighted 
with this interest on the part of the man of note, offered now a copy 
of one of the ballads, and now a transcript of a large number, as 
a friendly bribe for "making corrections" on some of his own 
work (Percy-Shenstone, pp. 10, 15). Again, by promising a sight 
of the whole folio, he tried to induce Shenstone to visit him (p. 21), 
and the home-lover acknowledged that the temptation was great 
(p. 24). After Percy's visit to the Leasowes in 1750, interest 
waxed yet keener, and many pages of correspondence s\ere given 
to discussion of the treasures. As his heart failed him now and 


then, Shenstone encouraged and even urged the pubUcation of 
the ballads (pp. 58, 63) and wrote: "There is no room that I can 
see to question the reception that your work is Uke to meet with. 
If I have any talent at conjecture, all people of taste throughout 
the kingdom will rejoice to see a judicious, a correct and elegant 
edition of such pieces" (p. 46). Shenstone aided in collecting 
old Scotch and Welsh ballads for the book (pp. 58, 86) and pro- 
mised help in making designs for it (p. 54). 

His advice was especially emphatic and effective on two points 
— restraint in the size and quality of the contents, and a certain 
yielding to the prevailing taste of the day. He hoped that the 
"prodigious pains" of Mr. Percy would "be employed rather 
to fill a moderate collection with the best readings of good ballads 
than to swell such a collection to any great extent" (p. 51). And 
he gave the w^arning, "Once for all, it is extremely certain that 
an over-proportion of this kind of ballast [ballads with "not a 
single particle of poetical merit"] will sink your vessel to the 
bottom of the sea. Therefore be upon your guard in time. Nei- 
ther have you any reason to be apprehensive that your volumes 
should be deficient in point of bulk" (p. 79. See also pp. 44, 66, 
88). Percy heeded the advice. He rephed: "To oblige you, I 
have stipulated with the bookseller only to print two volumes, 
provided the materials for a third are not quite so good as those of 
the two first, which are to be printed off first out of the very cream 
and quintessence of our collections. And, to prevent ever de- 
grading the work by additional volumes, etc., we have made an 
express article that, if we should at length find very excellent 
materials for a third volume, no inducement whatever is to give 
birth to a fourth. . . . You see I shall give up near forty pounds 
by dropping a third volume to oblige you; but I assure you I shall 
do it with the greatest pleasure to obtain the approbation of so 
valuable a friend and so excellent a judge, and no dirty motives 
of lucre shall induce me to disgrace a work, which you are so 
indulgent as to think well of" (p. 54). 

Percy has been much criticised for publishing the ancient 
poems with retouchmg, modernizing, and conventionalizing; in 
this matter he agreed with Shenstone, who strongly advised the 
very course that he pursued. At first thought, such action 


seems to show lack of artistic judgment, and of literary honor; yet 
when we consider the reason for which it was done and the absence 
of any standards in such matters at that time, we may surely admit 
that tliese eighteenth century editors were in the right. Shenstone 
felt that unless these "amendments" were made, the old ballads 
would be entirely neglected by all but pedants (Nichols : Illustrations, 
VII, p. 220). He would seek a larger audience, the general reading 
public; he would not have the treasure pubhshed unimproved, 
only "for the benefit of other artists" {Percy-Shenstone, p. 75). 
Those mthout learning would not value the old pieces in their 
unchanged form, would hardly even read them. Shenstone under- 
stood his age so well that it seems almost certain this method, 
now so objectionable, was largely the means of securing for the 
Reliques their wide and deep influence, even though it was carried 
to an almost absurd extent in the suggestion that the Fight at 
Otterburne should be omitted, as having more merit as a curiosity 
than as poetry, till the public's reception of the first two volumes 
was certain (p. 66). He wrote, "I believe I shall never make 
any objections to such improvements as you bestow . . . unless 
you were plainly to contradict antiquity, which I am pretty sure 
will never be the case" (p. 44). And so the corrections went on; 
even the following atrocious "improvement" suggested by Percy 
was allowed to pass: 

His hair was like the threeds of gold 

Shot frae the burning sun, {Drawne frae Minerva's loom) 

His lips like roses drapping dew — 

His breath was a perfume. 

The same yielding to the general taste of the times is shown 
in much of Shenstone's advice as to the arrangement of the volumes. 
He would not have the text smothered by notes (p. 47). Short 
poems should be mingled with the longer ones, lest the reader 
become weary. It would be well to place first in each separate 
volume the older pieces, which are irregular and sub-obscure; then 
a series of later ones; and finally some modern pieces in a similar 
style. By placing in the first volume all the obsolete pieces, "not 
agreeable to the general taste," the beginning of the work "might 
be liable to give disgust" (pp. 75, 66). Much feehng of responsi- 
bility is shown in Shenstone's insistence that, even after his de- 


tailed opinion about each poem and the arrangement of all, he 
shall receive a transcription of the whole before it is sent to press 
(p. 43). 


As we look back over the quiet life and unhurried work of 
William Shenstone, we realize that he accomplished much. He 
lived and died a gentleman, always courteous, sincere, sensitive, 
affectionate, with a blending of gentle melancholy and playful 
humor. With small means he made his pasture-land a place of 
natural though artistic beauty, which did much to form and fix 
the best modern taste in EngUsh gardening. As a poet he has 
left us at least one pastoral whose sweet, graceful melody and 
genuineness of tender feeling still please even the critic's ear 
and Unger in his memory; as poet, too, he is a pioneer in a literary 
form now well recognized and well loved in English literature — 
the narrative of the everyday life of common people. As humorist, 
his fine, quiet playfulness has triumphed over his critics of clumsier 
nature and brought them to absurdities of statement simply 
because they did not perceive it. He is an essayist whose fresh 
and gracious little papers may well stand near Addison's and be 
remembered with them. He wrote letters whose pages have still 
an easy charm for one who sits down at leisure to enjoy his hearty 
friendship, his interest in all books and movements new in the 
literary world of his day, and his discriminating judgment of such 
matters. To his encouragement and opinions as a critic was largely 
due the publication of Percy's Reliques with its widespread in- 
fluence. In a time when the fetters of rigid French convention- 
ality still lay heavy upon English letters, he turned both his theory 
and his practice, on the whole, towards simple naturalness, though 
he did not always achieve it, especially in his poetry. He loved 
and lived the simple life. Surely such work has value in itself; 
such influence has been a working force, though always quiet 
and often unrecognized or unacknowledged. Surely, then, to 
William Shenstone is due lasting respect and a share, though 
small, of enduring honor from those who would judge fairly of 
the makers and the making of our changing, living literature. 


Unpublished Poems from the Manuscript 

To Miss . . . not dancing at a Ball. 

While round in wild Rotations hurld, 
These shining Forms I view, 

Methinks y^ busy restless World 
Is imag'd in a Few. 

So may the giddy World advance ! 

A.nd thus may Fate decree, 
It still may have it's active Dance, 

Whilst / retire with Thee! 

W. S. 

For Valentine's Day 


Twas Spring, when all the plumy Quire 

In nuptial Treaty joins; 
When tepid Gales with Love conspire, 

And bless their soft Designs; 
Melissa rang'd y^ Fountain's side, 
And thus, in artless accents, cry'd. 


Happy Warblers! Love enjoying. 

Free from Censure, free from Fears! 

Happy Love ! which, never cloying, 
Musick's tunefuU voice endears! 

What can mortal sv/eeter prove, 

Than the Chorus of the Grove? 

Thus to sing & thus to love! 



The Boy that lov'd MeUssa best, 

Behind the flow'ring Limes was laid; 

He pour'd the secret from his Breast, 
And thus bespoke y^ blushing Maid. 


If a Linnet's vocal strain 

Can Mehssa's Envy move; 
If a Blackbird's amorous Pain 

Thus commend the Sweets of Love, 
What to Deities can be. 
Above the sweet FeHcity, 
Like you to sing, or Love like we? 

For a Beech. 

Ye rural Maids, & rustic Swains! 

That here your annual vows renew! 
Are Kings or Queens so free from Pains, 

Are they so blest in Love as you? 

Then may ye Uve content w/ Fate; 

Yet ever seem your Fate to moan; 
Shou'd Courtiers know your happy state. 

Ye shou'd not taste it long, alone. 


The Crown encircled Juno's Hair; 
The Crescent bright was Cynthia's Share; 
The Helmet mark'd Minerva's Mien; 
But Smiles bespoke the Cyprian Queen. 

Her Train was form'd of Smiles & Loves; 
Her Chariot drawn by gentlest Doves; 
And from her Zone the Nymphs might find, 
'Twas Beauty's Province to be kind. 


Why then will lovely Delia drown 
Celestial Beauties, in a Frown? 
Smile from your Brows those Clouds away, 
And, to that Heav'n, restore y*^ day. 

Nor let it grieve my charming Fair, 
That I, her slave, the Blessing share; 
That Smiles an equal Life impart 
To Delia's Charms — & Sfrephon's Heart. 


To the Honourable M''-^ Knight, at y^ Time She was laying 

out her Villa. 

Tho' ev'ry blooming Plant conspires 
To grace y^ Tracts Asteria treads; 

And softest Notes, & sweetest Lyres 
Endear Asteria's favour'd Meads; 

Yet may her Candour not disdain 

The tribute of a distant Plain. 

And may that smiling Virtue shew. 
What Fates on distant Plains attend; 

That, if a Cadence smoothly flow. 
Or if a tuneless Line offend, 

The first her fair Idea grac'd; 

And that her Absence caus'd y*^ last. 

How oft my roving Fancy leads 

To Shades that soothe her pensive Hour; 

Where Nature reigns, whence Art recedes, 
Yet leaves improv'd her charming Bow'r; 

Recedes, Asteria's Taste refines, 

And there, with Nature too, she shines. 

The verdant Gloom w''' what Dehght 

Each well-amus'd Spectator views! 
How pleas'd he bids Adieu to Light! 


To all, but that which Yoti diffuse! 
With just Regret is that resign'd, 
Which chears y*: Eye, & charms y^ Mind. 

What Transports in each Breast supply 
The feather 'd warbler's melting strains! 

The lawless Pindars of the Sky 

That harmonize these bUssfull Plains! 

That, to the Sun, their Notes renew, 

While tunefull Floris sings to you. 

Where y^ tall solemn Grove aspires, 
How fair those artfull Turrets rise! 

And where this humbler vale retires, 
Now poHsh'd Nature charms our Eyes! 

O skill'd to guide her Footsteps true! 

Skill'd, with your Pencil, to pursue. 

Nor blame the less presuming Muse, 
That humbly paints a Grott or Lawn; 

And seems the Pattern to refuse. 

Whence noblest Virtues might be drawn; 

The lovely Fruits of Taste & Care 

Tis Fame, as well as Bliss to share. 

Yet even these, their various Grace, 

When You your Wit & Charms display, 

These, w''-'' w'*" Pleasure all must trace, 
All may, without Amaze, survey. 

Reserve, ye Swains, your fond Surprize, 

To lavish on Asteria's Eyes. 

The Pilgrim who bewilder'd roves 

Where sweet Idalia's Goddess reigns. 

Thro' myrtle Thickets, Citron Groves, 
And lilly'd Banks & roseate Plains, 

Wou'd slight their Charms, if she were seen, 

And pleas'd adore his fav'rite Queen. 

W. S. 

68 william shenstone and his critics 

The Sanctuary. 

Too scornfull Pleasure! check thy Pace; 
Breathless & faint I urge y^ Chace; 
And now I loiter slow behind, 
While fleeting, Thou outstripst y^ Wind. 

Stay, gentle Pleasure ! stay thine Haste 
Till Life's allotted Period's past; 
Soothe envious Time till that is o'er, 
And He shall tyrannize no more. 

Life can alas! no more amuse; 
And Pleasure flies & Pain pursues: 
All sick & faint w*^ fond Desire, 
To what safe Shrine shall I retire? 

A Shrine there is, my Delia's Breast; 
Near that fair Altar let me rest; 
To that kind Refuge quick repair. 
And Pain dare never seize me there. 


[Above a Painting of a Stream Bordered by Trees] 

Here Luxb'rough sate; Ye streams y* gently glide! 
Whene'er ye chance to meet a richer Tide, 
Ah! warn it not to sHght your Httle store; 
Say Luxb'rough prais'd you, & you ask no more. 

For a medicinal Fountain, 
in my Farm 

Thou sacred Nymph! whose pious Care 
Pours from thine urn this min'ral Rill; 

Whose healing Draughts, like crystal fair, 
In pleasing Murmurs here distill! 

Who guidst y^ Stream, & joyst to dwell 
Where Murmurs soft w^'' Use agree, 

May Phoebus haunt this hallow'd Well, 
And all Ms Sisters learn of Thee. 



The Roses reconcil'd. 

By Party Rage & stern Debate 

Idalia's Realm was tore; 
Two Beauties sought to rule y^ State, 

And rival Hues they wore. 

The gentle Che soft & kind 

The Rose she bore, was pale; 
The rural Dian hop'd to find 

Her crimson Buds prevail. 

Pity Love's genrous Train shou'd grow, 

Or shou'd continue Foes; 
Go forth, my Dear! my DeHa, go 

These civil Feuds compose. 

Soon wilt thou see thy Pow'r divine 

Oer ev'ry Eye extend; 
Since neer did Cheek so soft as thine 

The varying Roses blend. 

M"" Shenstone to M' Whistler 

'Tis strange, that sway'd by Passion's Laws 
While thousands wide of Reason stray, 

Some err with Credit, nay, Applause; 
And some, ignobly, lose their way. 

The Name of Prudence, injur'd Name! 

Is giv'n y^ mercenary Mind; 
Has Fortune seiz'd y*? Trump of Fame? 

Or is she too, like Fortune, bhnd? 

To lure some ill-experienc'd Heir, 

The formal Cit assiduous toils; 
He spreads unseen y^ fatal Snare, 

Yet neer at Ease enjoys y^ Spoils. 


In roseate shades, & myrtle Bow'rs, 
Wildly y^ raptured Poet roves; 

Enjoys y^ balm of op'ning Flow'rs, 
And melting Musick of y^ Groves, 

Yet He among y^ Wise is plac'd, 

He seems alone to have y^ Blessing, 


Who gains what he can never taste; 

Not He who tastes ev'n not possessing. 

Florio, a Plant by tender Hands 

On Paper carv'd, with Rapture gains; 

Gomez, the timber' d Oak demands. 

Yon spreading tree that shades y^ Plains. 

Give me says ... an Otho's Head, 

Tho' Lands, Trees, Tenements, be sold; 

Him . . . sneers, & pleas'd indeed 
Views modern Majesty in Gold. 

The Merchant buys a Vessel's Load; 

Goes home & brags on't to his Par'tner: 
Mead hugs his vast prodigious Toad, 
Swearing By G— d he's bit y^ Gard'ner. 

O You ! who by a skillfull Aim 

From right Opinion seldom err, 

Will you the lavish trifler blame? 

Can you y^ sordid Breast prefer? 

For this the Sum — our vain Desires 

Whether or Wealth or Whim allures, 


The trivial Sterling one admires; 
And one, the trifles it procures. 

Yet sure, of all y^ various Bliss 

A social Mind can wish to share, 

What most the Wise shou'd value, is, 
A generous Friend, or gentle Fair. 

Whose spreading antlers shade y^ plains. 


Whene'er y^ Lover's Ardours move, 

Or Friendship warms, a breast sincere. 

What Joys so ravishing, as Love? 

Or what, like Friendship, persevere? 

When Life's chagrining Ills increase, 

To some soft Bosom we repair; 
That sacred Shrine protects our Peace, 


And Pain dare never seize us there. 

Friendship, y^ Muses other Theme, 

When rival Passions are at strife, 
Guards us from ev'ry wild Extreme, 

And skreens us, thro' y^ Clime of Life. 

Had poor Kilmarnock known a Friend, 

Their ill-star'd Biass to controul. 
He ne'er had known the timeless End 

That shocks the temper of my Soul. 

"The Centinel that sleeps, shall dye," 

Why, Virtue nods, some luckless Hour; 
Well may He wish some Friend were nigh, 


That, on these Terms, defends y^ Tow'r. 

But Phoebus now, who bids me quit 

The Flow'rets that in Fancy spring. 

Has giv'n me Warmth instead of Wit; 
Content to feel what others sing. 

And sweetly sing — The Fair, The Friend 
Have shar'd the Poet's noblest Lays; 

Yet none could e'er his Theme transcend; 
None, to the Merit, suit the Praise. 

The Image of one soft-ey'd Maid 

Dispells the Gloom of vulgar Care; 

Refines the Taste, & lends it's Aid 

In all that's gen'rous, mild, or fair. 



The Image of a virtuous Friend 

Confirms our virtue, Noon & Morn; 

And may that Friendship never end, 
Which I profess, & you adorn. 

The Ever-green 

When genial May's indulgent Care 

Had giv'n the Grove it's wonted Shade; 

Pensive & grave, my charming Fair, 

Beneath a branching Lime, was laid. 

Flourish, said I, those favour'd Boughs! 

And ever soothe y^ purest Flames! 
Witness to none but faithfull vows! 

Wounded by none but faithfull Names! 

Yield ev'ry Tree that forms y^ Grove 

To this which pleas'd my wand'ring Dear! 

Range where ye list, ye Bands of Love, 
Ye still shall seem to revel here! 

She smild, &, whilst her lovely Arm 
Her fair reclining Head sustain'd, 

Betray'd she felt some fresh Alarm, 

And thus y^ meaning Smile explain'd. 

When vernal Suns shine forth no more. 
Will then this Lime its Shelter yield? 

When wintry Storms around me roar, 
Will not it's Leaves bestrew y^ Field? 

Yet faithfull then the Fir shall last — 
I smile, she said, but ah! I tremble, 

To think, when my fair Season's past. 
Which Damon then will most resemble. 


An obvious Answer 

Too tim'rous Maid, can Time or Chance 

A pure ingenuous Flame controul? 
O lay aside that tender Glance; 

It melts my Frame, It kills my Soul. 

Were Daphne's Charms alone admir'd, 

Frail Origin of female Sway! 
My Flame, Uke vulgar Flames, inspir'd. 

Might then, like vulgar Flames, decay. 

But whilst thy Soul shall seem thus fair. 

Thy Mind retain it's wonted Mien, 
Thou mayst resign that Shape & Air, 

Yet find thy Swain — an Ever-green. 


On the Discovery of Chelt'nam Waters 

by Pigeons 

Matre Dea monstrante viam! 

Go forth, my Doves, y^ Goddess cry'd, 
On Chelf nam's fiow'ry Plains reside; . 
Near yonder Fountains feed & Play, 
And you, my Delia, mark their way. 

And where they close their rapid Road, 
Be there awhile my Nymphs abode: 
For there returning Health shall warm; 
Shall reinspirit ev'ry Charm. 

That sovereign steel, whose Pow'r is known, 
To seat the Monarch on his Throne, 
In yonder Mineral Springs shall rise, 
To fix the sway of Delia's Eyes. 


Their former Bloom thy cheeks shall gain, 
Thy Lovers feel their former Pain; 
For thus went forth a late Decree, 
Sign'd by the Queen of Health & Me. 

Nor envy you y^ gUtt'ring Prize 
That blest my Trojan's* dazled Eyes; 
Not more propitious to his Vow 
I pointed out y^ golden Bough. 

Oh! Health excells the radiant Spray, 
Which rul'd that Heroe's destin'd way; 
He to Elysian scenes cou'd steer, 
But Health bestows Elysium here. 

The Doves divide their airy way; 
The Nymph as fair, as soft as They, 
Beholds them shut their silver wings; 
And seeks the salutary Springs. 

Ah faithfull, faithless Streams! that flow 
The Source of Health, y^ Source of Woe! 
That give her Eyes their wonted Fire, 
Whilst all that gaze, alas! expire. 
*Aeneas. . S. 

Lysander to Chloe. 

Tis true my Wish shall never find 

Another Nymph, so fair, so true! 

And all that's bright & all that's kind, 
I ever own'd were met in you. 

And I with gratefuU zeal cou'd haste 
To China for y^ merest Toy; 

Cou'd scorch whole years on Lybia's waste. 
To give my Dear a moment's Joy. 


But fickle as the Wave or Wind, 

I once may slight those lovely Arms; 

Pardon a free ingenuous Mind — 

I do not half deserve thy Charms. 

If I in any Art excell, 

Tis, in soft strains to breathe my Flame; 
But so much sweetness bids me tell, 

It will not long persist y^ same. 

I know it's Season will expire; 

I know it's Transports will be flown; 
Nor more thy matchless Breast admire, 

Than I detest & scorn my own. 


The Amorous Inconstant. 

Ah me! the flatt'ring Scene is o'er; 
And Verse, & Numbers charm no more: 
For why, my Pain my hopeless Woe, 
Nor verse can paint, nor Numbers shew. 

now farewell that soothing Lay 
Where many a Fountain seem'd to play! 
Where many a vernal Flowret shone — ! 
Ly Sander's Occupation' s gone.^ 

Not long releas'd from Silvia's Chain, 
How soon I dar'd the Toils again ! 
By Fate, by Nature doom'd to prove 
The Folly & the Force of Love. 

Thro all y*" Grove, my fooUsh Tongue 
Proclaim'd aloud my wond'rous wrong, 
My wond'rous Torture to display, 

1 stop'd y^ Stranger on his Way. 

t Parody, Othello's occupation's gone. See Othello. 



Imprudent both to young & old 


I blam'd y' fatal Pow'r of Gold; 
And, courting all that deign'd to hear, 
I blam'd it in a Miser's Ear. 

And now I feel my fiutt'ring Heart 
Must act again the trifling Part; 
Nor all that Foe or Friend shall say 
Can lessen Cynthia's rigid Sway. 

But other Nymphs, but other Fires 
May banish old by new Desires; 
Till one of more imperious Eye 


Dissolve my chains & bid me dye. 


Imitated at large from Horace's "Petti nihil me, etc. "practis'd on a 
Miser's, etc:" Line 4th qu: 

[No title] 
Then take a Nymph benign & fair 

A soul refin'd, a generous spirit 
And I'll insure you happiness 

That equals all — but what you merit. 

Unpublished Latin Inscriptions prom the Manuscript 

IN memoriam flirtillae, 

pusillae nimirum canis, et innociiae; 

agilis, blandae, tenerae, pulcherrimae; 

quae dolore partus correpta, 
amoris sui signa ad mortem usque edidit; 




Tales animas in coelis requiescere 


Tales ne terris desint 


Hunc juxta locum 

Mortales sui exuvias 

Lxx Annorum Invidia 

Tandem dilaceras 

Placide deposuit 

M. A. 

Amicum mancipium Domino 
Frugi q^ sit satis. 

Inscriptions on a small Mausoleum supported by Four Ionic PiUars, at 
M'^^^' Bateman's at old Windsor, an elegant Seat on the Banks of the Thames, 
in the Gothic Stile, surrounded by a Grove, w' 16 Acres of Ground well orna- 

Ut Animarum immortalium Exuviae 

Ab ignobili terrae Pulvere secernerentur. 

Et in ameniori positae loco 

Blanda fruerentur Quiete 

Ubique dispersas collegit, 

Et in hoc tumulo repone voluit 

Ricardus Batemane, 

Amenitatis Cultor, et primaevae 

Antiquitatis Restitutor, Pietatis Ergo. 

D. M. 

Ad conservandos Cineres 

lUustrium virorum, 
Antique =vindesorensium 

Quorum nomina, et virtutes 
Parvula haec non capit tabella 

Hie manus ob patriam. etc. 


Poems Having More Stanzas in the Manuscript Than in 

Their Published Forms 

Daphne's Visit. 

Ye Doves! for whom I rear'd y^ Grove, 
With melting Lays salute my Love; 
My Daphne with your Notes detain, 
Or I have rear'd y^ Grove in vain. 

Ye Flow'rs! which early Spring supplies. 
Display at once your brightest Dyes; 
That she your op'ning charms may see, 
Or what were else your charms to me? 

Kind Zephyr! brush each fragrant Flow'r, 
And shed its odours round my Bow'r; 
Or ne'er again, O gentle Wind! 
Shall I, in thee, refreshment find. 

Ye Streams! if eer w*-^ Art I strove. 
Your native murmurs to improve. 
May each soft Murmur soothe my Fair, 
Or Oh! 'twill deepen my Despair. 

Be sure, ye Willows! you be seen 
Array'd in Uveliest Robes of Green; 
Or I will tear your sHghted Boughs, 
And let them fade around my Brows. 

And Thou, my Grott! whose lonely Bounds 
The melancholy Pine surrounds, 
May she admire thy peaceful! Gloom, 
Or thou shalt prove her Lover's Tomb. 

W. S. 


In Winter 1746. 

Ye Groves with wintry Rigour brown! 

Ye Skies no longer blue! 
Too much I feel from Delia's Frown, 

To bear these Frowns from you. 

Where is y^ Spring's delightfull green? 

The Summer's ample Bow'r? 
And where my Delia's wonted Mien, 

That brighten'd ev'ry Flow'r? 

Where'er my lovesick Limbs I lay, 
To shun the rushing wind. 

It's busy murmur seems to say. 
She never will be kind. 

The Naiads, o'er their frozen Urns, 

In icy chains repine; 
And each, in sullen silence, mourns 

Her Freedom lost — Uke mine. 

No more the warbUng Birds rejoice; 

Of all that chear'd y' Plain, 
Echo alone retains her Voice, 

And She — repeats my Pain! 

Soon will the Sun's returning Rays 
The chearless Frost controul; 

When will relenting DeUa chase 
The Winter of my soul! 


Queen Elizabeth, a Ballad. 
The tune, " Come & listen to my Ditty. " 
Inscribed, To the R' Hon^?' Lady Hertford 
now Dutchess of Somerset. 

Will you hear how once repining 
Poor Eliza captive lay? 

Each ambitious Thought resigning, 
Foe to Riches, Pomp, & Sway? 

While the Nymphs & Swains dehghted 
Tript around in rural Pride, 

Envying Joys, by others shghted. 
Thus the royal Maiden cry'd. 

Bred on Plains, or born in Valleys, 

Who would bid those scenes Adieu? 

Stranger to the Arts of Malice 

Who wou'd ever Courts pursue? 

Censure, never taught to treasure, 
Censure never taught to bear. 

Love is all the Shepherd's Pleasure 
Love is all the Damsel's Care. 

How can they of humble Station 

Fondly blame the Pow'rs above? 

How, accuse the Dispensation, 

Which allows them all, to Love} 

Love like Air is freely given; 

Pow'r nor Chance can these restrain; 
Common Gifts of bounteous Heaven, 

Only purest on the Plain! 

Courts cou'd ne'er y^ Charms discover, 
All in Stars & Garters drest; 

As, on Sundays, does the Lover, 
With his Posie on his Breast. 


Pinks & Roses in profusion! 

Said to fade when Cloe^s near! 
Fops might use the same Allusion, 

But the Shepherd is sincere. 

Collin's utmost Bliss is bounded, 

While the Crook his Hand adorns; 

Better That with Flow'rs surrounded, 
Than y® Sceptre rough with Thorns. 

Better far the rushy Bonnet 

Than a Crown, well understood; 
While perhaps there blushes on it 

Some unhappy Rival's Blood! 

Hark to yonder Milkmaid singing 

Chearly o'er the brimming Pail! 
Cowslips all around her springing, 


Sweetly paint the charming Vale. 

Never yet did courtly Maiden 

Look so sprightly, look so fair; 
Or her Breast, with Jewells laden. 

Pour a Song so void of Care. 


Wou'd indulgent Heav'n had granted 
Me, some rural Damsel's Part! 

All the Empire I had wanted 

Then had been my Shepherd's Heart. 

Then, with Him, o'er Hills & Mountains, 
Free from Censure, might I rove; 

Fearless taste the crystal Fountains, 
Peacefull sleep beneathe y^ Grove. 

Ever gentle, still forgiving. 

Partial to my virgin Bloom, 
None had censur'd me, when living; 

None had flatter 'd, on my Tomb. 


To some Village they had bore me, 
Wept by Lover's tears alone; 

Strephon hung y^ Garland oer me, 
Strephon had inscrib'd y® Stone. 

Poems from the Manuscript that Vary Greatly from Their 

Published Forms 

The Shepherd's Garland, 
consisting of Four new Ballads in y^ Pastoral 
Style written after Leaving Chelt'nam MDCCXLIII 
& sacred To the Youth, Beauty, & Manner of . 
Simplici Myrto nihil allabores 
Sedulus euro. HOR. 

[Then follows Absence.] 


Hie gehdi Pontes, hie molha Prata, Lycori; 
Hie Nemus, hie toto tecum consumerer Ovo. 

My Banks they are furnish'd w*-^ Bees, 
Whose murmur invites one to sleep; 

My Grottos are shaded with Trees, 

And my Hills are white-over w'^ Sheep. 

I seldom have met w'?' a Loss; 

Such Health do my Fountains bestow! 
My Fountains, all border'd w*^ Moss, 

Where the Pinks & the Violets grow! 

I have found out a Gift for my Fair; 

I have found where y^ wood-pigeons, breed; 
Yet let me that Plunder forbear; 

She will say 'twas a barbarous Deed. 


For he ne'er cou'd be true, she aver'd 

Who cou'd rob a poor Bird of its Young; 

And I lov'd her the more when I heard 

Such Tenderness fall from her Tongue. 

I have heard her with sweetness unfold 

How that Pity was due to a Dove! 
That it ever attended the bold, 

And She call'd it "the Sister of Love." 

But her Words such a Pleasure convey, 

So much I her Accents adore. 
Whatever, whatever she say, 

Methinks I shou'd love her y^ more. 

One wou'd think she might like to retire 
To the Grove I have labour'd to rear; 

Not a Shrub that I heard her admire. 
But it grows & it flourishes there. 

how sudden the Sweet-briar strove, 

And the Myrtle, to render it gay! 
The willow, so hatefuU to Love. 
The Willow alone is away. 

Were I sure that Arabia cou'd boast 
A Flow'r or a Shrub, to her Mind, 

1 wou'd sail to y^ far 'distant Coast, 

It's favourite Blossom to find. 

With zeal shou'd thy Lover depart. 

And meet y^ rude Seas w.' a Smile; 
And all that wou'd go to my Heart, 

Were to leave my dear PJiillis y^ while. 

The Linnets all flock to my Groves; 


The Limes their rich Fragrance bestow; 
And the Nightingales warble their Loves 
From Thickets of Roses, that blow. 


And when her bright Form shall appear, 
Each Bird shall harmoniously join, 

In a concert, so sweet & so clear, 

As she may not be fond to resign. 

Not a Pine in my Copse is there seen, 

But with tendrils of Wood-bine 'tis bound; 

Not a Linden's more beautiful Green, 
But a Jessamin twines it around. 

Dear Regions of Silence & Shade! 

Soft scenes of Contentment & Ease ! 
Where / cou'd have pleasingly stray'd, 

If ought, in her Absence, cou'd please. 

But where does my Phillida stray? 

And where are her Grotts & her Bow'rs? 
Are her Groves & her Valleys as gay? 

And the Shepherds as gentle, as ours? 

The Groves may perhaps be as fair, 

And the Face of the Valleys as fine; 

The Swain's gentle Manners compare, 
But their Love is not equal to Mine. 


— Tenui pendentia Filo 

Why will you my Passion reprove? 

Why term it a Folly to grieve? 
E'er I shew you the Charms of my Love, 

She is fairer y" you can believe. 

With her Charms she enamours y^ brave; 

With her Wit she engages the Free; 
With her Modesty pleases the Grave; 

— She is ev^ry way pleasing to me. 


I can see how she charms y^ rude Hind; 

How his Gestures are alter'd by Love; 
My Senses are false, or I find 

Both his Voice & his Language improve. 

I can see where my Charmer goes by, 
How y » Hermit peeps out of his Cell; 

How he thinks of his Youth w' a Sigh, 
How fondly he wishes her well. 

Come hither, ye Youths of the Plain! 

Why sUght ye my amorous Lays? 
I cou'd lay down my Life for y^ Swain, 

That will speak in my Phylhs's Praise. 

When He sings, may y^ Nymphs of y^ town 

Come flocking & hsten y^ while; 
Nay on Him let not PhiUida frown — 

But I cannot allow her to smile. 

For when Paridel tries, in y^ Dance, 

Any Favour with Phyllis to find, 
then, with one trivial Glance, 

She might ruin y^ Peace of my Mind ! 

For Paridel artfully tells 

A soothing fantastical Tale; 
And shews her wherein she excells 

The Lilly, that graces the Vale. 

Away to the Garden he hies, 

And pillages every sweet; 
And, tracing their several Dyes, 

He lays them at Phyllis's Feet. 

Phyllis, he whispers, more fair, 

More sweet than y"? Orange in Flow'r! 

Can the Pink in a Morning compare? 
Or y^ Tuberose after a Show'r? 


I steal from no Flow'rets y*^ blow- 
To paint forth her Pow'r, I approve; 

For what can a Blossom bestow 
So dear so dehghtfull as Love? 

I sing in a rustical Way ; 

A Shepherd, & one of the Throng; 
But Phyllis is pleas'd w'?^ my Lay, 

Go, Poets! & envy my Song. 

W. G.t 


Tis y*^ same Cupid wakes y^ Lyre 

That deals his amorous Darts around; 

From Love we catch poetick Fire, 

And Echo learns her sweetest sound. 

As Cupid near y^ Muses' Glade 

In slumber's soft embraces lay, 

A petulant exulting Maid 

Approaching, stole his Darts away. 

Henceforth, she said, depriv'd of Pow'r 
Let Cupids Insolence decrease; 

And, from this blest, this happy Hour, 
Let us, poor Maidens! live in Peace, 

Sleep on, poor Child! whilst I withdraw, 
And this thy vile Artill'ry hide; 

At length y^ Muse's Fount she saw. 

And plung'd 'em in y^ crystal Tide — 

But will those streams, so lovely clear. 

Escape y^ Whipster searching round? 
Will not y^ glitt'ring Points appear? 
Will not y^ furtive spoil be found? 

t This signature is puzzling. 


Too soon it was; & ev'ry Dart, 

Ting'd in y^ Muse's lucid spring, 
Acquir'd new Pow'r to touch y"? Heart 

And taught, at once, to love & sing. 


Written on my Study-window. 

Published, The Scholar's Relapse. 
Daphne's Visit. 
The Rose-bud. 
The Lark. 

Published, The Sky-lark. 
The Landskip. 
To The Hon. Mrs. Knight, at the time she erected her Library. 

PubHshed, To a Lady of QuaHty iitting up her Library, 1738. 

Published, Ode to a Young Lady somewhat too solicitous about her man- 
ner of expression. 
Imitated from Boileau, "Voici les lieux, etc." 

Published, Imitated from the French. 
In Winter, 1746. 

To Miss . . . not dancing at a Ball. 
Alluding to a Rural Custom on Valentine's Day. 

Published, Valentine's Day. 
Urit spes animi credula mutui. 

PubUshed, Ode. Written 1739. 

Urit spes animi credula mutui. Hor. 
For Valentine's Day. 
For a Beech. 
The King-fisher. 

PubUshed, The Halcyon. 

To the Honourable Mrs. Knight, at the time she was laying out her Villa. 
The Sanctuary. 
Queen Elizabeth, a Ballad. 

Published, The Princess Elizabeth. 
The Author Indisposed. 

Published, Song V. 
Verses left at The Right Honorable the Lady Luxborough's. 

Winter, 1747. 

Published, Upon a visit to the same in Winter 1748. 
Here Luxborough sat. 
On a Lady's refusing to be seen the day before she was to leave a Public Place. 


Published, Song X, 1743. 
James Dawson's Garland. 

Published, Jemmy Dawson. 
The Roses Reconciled. 
Mr. Shenstone to Mr. Whistler. 
The Evergreen. 
A BaUad. 

Published, Nancy of the Vale. 
Inscription for a medicinal fountain in my Farm. 
On the Discovery of the Chelt'nam Waters by Pigeons. 
The Kid. 

Pubhshed, The Dying Kid. 
An Inscription in the Old English Guise and Characters and Spelling; to be 

found in my Gothic Building. 

Published in Dodsley's Description of the Leasowes {Works, II). 
An Inscription in my Grove; or Fairy-Spell. 

Published in Dodsley's Description of the Leasowes. 
Adieu! ye jovial youths. 

Published, Song XVII. Written in a Collection of Bacchanalian Songs. 
Lysander to Chloe. 

Published, Song III. 
The Shepherd's Garland. 

Pubhshed, A Pastoral Ballad. 

Published, Anacreontic, 1738. 
The Amorous Inconstant. 

Ode to Memory. 
Written in Autumn, 1748. 

Published, Verses written towards the close of the year 1748, to William 
Lyttleton, Esq. 
Verses on a Seat in my Grove. 

Pubhshed in Dodsley's Description of the Leasowes. 
Then take a nymph. 

Latin Inscriptions 
In Memoriam FHrtilla. 
To Eutrecia Smith. 

Published, To Maria Dolman. 
To James Thomson. 
O Viator! 
To M. A. 
On a Mausoleum. 

Seventeen paintings, of which seven are full-page landscapes. 
Two pencil sketches. 

Aiken, Dr. E. 

Life of Shenstone. In Select Works of the British Poets. Phihidelphia. 

Thomas Wardle. 1831. 
Anderson, Robert. 

Life of Shenstone. In Poets of Great Britain. London. John and 

Arthur Arch. 1794. 
Bacon, Francis. 

Essays. Edited by Reynolds. Clarendon Press. Oxford. 1890. 
Beers, Henry A. 

A History of English Romanticism in the Eighteenth Century. Henry 

Holt and Co. New York. 1910. 
Black, Adam and Charles. 

Guide to England and Wales. Edinburgh. 1869. 
Boswell, James. 

Life of Samuel Johnson. Edited by George Birkbeck Hill. Clarendon 

Press. Oxford. 1887. 
Browning, Elizabeth Barrett. 

Poetical Works. Troy, N. Y. Nims and Knight. 1887. 
Brydges, Sir Egerton, Bart. 

Life of Milton. In Poetical Works of Milton, edited by Brydges. Phila- 
delphia. George S. Appleton. 1851. 
Burns, Robert. 

Works. Edited by Allen Cunningham. London. Cochrane and 

M' Crone. 1834. 
Carlyle, Alexander. 

Autobiography. Edinburgh. Blackwood and Sons. 1860. 
Chalmers, Alexander. 

English Poets from Chaucer to Cowper. London. J. Johnson. 1810. 
Cowper, William. 

Private Correspondence. Edited by Rev. T. S. Grimshawe. London. 

Saunders and Otley. 1836. 
Daniel, Otto. 

William Shenstone's Schoolmistress und das Aufkommen des Kleinepos in 

der neuenglischen Litteratur. Inaugural-dissertation zur Erlangung der 

Doktorwiirde. Weimar. 1908. 
Dictionary of National Biography. Edited by Leslie Stephen. London. 

Smith, Elder, and Co. 1885. 
D'Israeli, Isaac. 

Curiosities of Literature. London. Edward Moxon. 1849. 
D'Israeli, Isaac. 

Curiosities of Literature. London. G. Routledge and Co. 1858. 


Dodsley, Robert. 

A Collection of Poems by Several Hands. London. Dodsley. 1765. 

Enaerson, Ralph Waldo. 

Works, Centenary Edition, I. Boston. Houghton, Mifflin, and Co. 1903. 
Gentleman's Magazine LXV, LXVH, LXXX, LXXHT. London. 1795, 1817. 

Goldsmith, Oliver. 

Works, II, IV. London, Allan Bell and Co. 1835. 

Graves, Richard. 

Columella. London. J. Dodsley. 1779. 

Euphrosyne; or, Amusements on the Road of Life. London. J. Dodsley. 


Recollections of Some Particulars in the Life of the late William Shen- 
stone, Esq. In a series of letters from an intimate friend of his to [William 
Seward, Esq.]. London. J. Dodsley. 1788. 

Mr. Hutton of Oxford wrote in his Burford Papers in 1905 that this 

book by Graves was rare. I tried several of the largest Ubraries in this 

country and could not find it. A letter from one of the officials of the 

New York Public Library stated, however, that they had on their shelves 

"Seward, William, Recollections of some particulars in the Ufe of 

Wm. Shenstone in a series of letters . . . [anon]. London, 1788. 

12 mo." 

By personal investigation I found that this was the volume I desired. 
The name of the author does not appear on the title-page. Some hand 
had inserted, with pen and ink, the name of Seward as the person to whom 
the letters were written, and the book was catalogued as by him. It is 
plainly the book by Graves, as is shown by paragraphs in it, which Ander- 
son quotes at length as by Graves, and by the statement of the author on 
page 133, made in connection with Shenstone's letters, that his accounts 
of the people of rank who visited him were written only to two of his most 
intimate friends — "either to me or to Mr. Jago." Now nearly all the 
letters in the only volume of them published at that time were either to 
Mr. Graves or to Mr. Jago. My information on this point was welcomed 
by the New York librarian, and the book is now probably catalogued 

Gray, Thomas, 

Letters, with Biographical Notice. Edited by Henry M. Rideout. Bos- 
ton. Sherman French and Co. 1907. 

Poems, to which are prefixed Memoirs of his Life and Writings by W. 
Mason. Printed by A. Ward; and sold by J. Dodsley. London. 1775. 
Works. Edited by Edmund Gosse. New York. Armstrong and Son. 
Works. Edited by John Mitford. London. Mawman. 1816. 

Herald and Genealogist, VI. Edited by John G. Nichols. London. Nichols. 


Hulme, William H. 

Thomas Percy and William Shenstone. In Modern Language Notes, 

Hutton, William Holden. 

Burford Papers. London. Archibald Constable and Co. 1905. 
Jago, Richard. 

Edgehill. In Poets of Great Britain, edited by Anderson. XI. 
Johnson, Samuel. 

Life of Shenstone. In Works, edited by George Birkbeck Hill. Oxford. 

Clarendon Press. 1905. 
Lady Luxborough. 

Letters written to William Shenstone, Esq. Edited by John Hodgetts. 

London. J. Dodsley. 1775. 
Lowell, James Russell. 

Letters. Edited by C. E. Norton. New York. Harper and Brothers. 

Mason, William. 

Poems. In British Poets, 77. Chiswick. J. Carpenter. 1822. 
Miller, Hugh. 

First Impressions of England and its People. Edinburgh. Thomas 

Constable and Co. 1858. 

Mumby, Frank A. 

Letters of Literary Men. London. George Routledge and Sons. 1906. 

Nichols, John Bowyer. 

Illustrations of the Literary History of the Eighteenth Century. Lon- 
don. J. B. Nichols. 1848. 

Notes and Queries. 

Third series, XII. 

Sixth series, IV, V. 
Pater, Walter. 

Appreciations. London. Macmillan and Co. 1910. 

Once a Week, VI. London. Bradbury and Evans. 

Percy, Thomas. 

Reliques of Ancient English Poetry. 34th edition. London. F. and C. 
Rivington. 1794. 

Thomas Percy and W'ilham Shenstone. 

Ein Briefwechsel aus der Entstehungszeit der Reliques of Ancient English 
Poetry. In Quellen und Forschungen zur Sprach- und Culturgeschichte 
der Germanischen Volker. Heft 103. Herausgegeben mit Einleitung 
and Anmerkungen von Dr. Hans Hecht. Strassburg. Karl J. Triibner. 

Phelps, William L. 

The Beginnings of the English Romantic Movement. Boston. Ginn and 
Co. 1893. 


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